Qantas: Ditching life rafts claim is 'wrong and scaremongering'

Senator Nick Xenophon said he had been approached privately by concerned pilots and cabin crew

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The Independent Online

Qantas has criticised a senator for “scaremongering” after he claimed the airline was considering ditching life rafts from some of its flights in a bid to save money.

South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said Thursday that pilots and cabin crew from the national carrier had told him in private about the plan, which he described as a “hare-brained scheme”.

But a Qantas spokesperson dismissed the claim on Friday and said that “no decisions” had been made, the Herald Sun reported.

In a statement the spokesperson said: “The aviation industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world. Qantas would not implement any change that would compromise safety or CASA’s strict standards.

“Any suggestion that we would compromise safety is wrong and scaremongering.”

Mr Xenophon had warned against the potential changes to on-board safety equipment.

“People fly Qantas because it goes above and beyond the minimum regulatory requirements. That’s brand Qantas,” he said. 

“If a plane has to ditch off shore, every minute counts and the savings are a joke. It might be a million a year in fuel, but they’re burning up $4 million (£2.2 million) a month with planes on tarmacs (due to issues with their Asian ventures).”

He added that while there was no legal requirement to equip Boeing 737s that travel no more than 400 miles offshore with rafts, they could nevertheless prove vital in an emergency situation.

Mr Xenophon said he understood that there was a plan to remove the three life rafts from 737s that are not flying trans-Tasman routes, thereby saving $1miiilion (£548,000)  in fuel annually.

The senator wrote to Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce to express his concern and to ask the airline not to implement such a move.

Earlier this year, Qantas announced that it planned to cut 5,000 jobs over the next three years as part of a $2 billion (£1.1 billion) cost reduction programme  aimed at returning the airline to profitability.