Media reports that Australia’s Qantas Airways is planning to move its operations to Asia have met with strong reaction from the Australian community, and unions are threatening industrial action.
Australian and International Pilots Association has warned that any move by Qantas to shift operations offshore and set up a premium airline in Asia will provoke a community backlash.
The Association president Barry Jackson told The Australian that reports that Qantas wanted to base much of the airline in Asia would set off alarm bells in the community.
“Australians want Qantas, not ‘Qantasia’,” he was reported in the newspaper.
“The Qantas Sale Act of 1992 was designed specifically to prevent this sort of move happening. Obviously, Qantas’s lawyers believe they’ve found a tricky way around it, so they are now looking at how best to pack the business up out of Australia and into Southeast Asia.”
In the meantime Qantas said the media reports that it was setting up a premium airline in Singapore were “purely speculative” and no decision was reached.
Australia’s flagship carrier has denied media reports that it was seeking a licence to operate an airline in Malaysia.
The airline told a news agency that it was looking at options to strengthen its struggling international operations.
Qantas is facing competition in the premium segment from Emirates and in the cheap airfares segment from cheaper airlines.
Earlier, the Australian Financial Review reported that Qantas was considering setting up a full-service airline in Singapore where up to 20 aircraft could be based.
Qantas intends to challenge the market share of Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific in Asia and build its network in Europe, the newspaper said. Qantas already operates a low-cost carrier, Jetstar Asia, in Singapore.
In the meantime, aircraft engineers have called off plans to strike but there are plans for further industrial action.
As if to compound its difficulties, the Australian carrier has been slapped with a NZ$6.5 million fine by the New Zealand High Court. The court has handed out its highest ever fine to Qantas which admitted to breaching New Zealand’s Commerce Act by exchanging information with other cargo carriers to fix the fuel surcharge component of the price for international air cargo services.