Qantas has axed a fifth of its workforce and grounded the bulk of its international fleet as it tries to survive the COVID-19 crisis.

The national airline has shed 6000 jobs as part of a drastic three-year plan to slash costs by $15 billion.

Almost 15,000 other staff will remain stood down without pay or on enforced leave.

It’s hoped about half of them will be back at work by the end of the year, but the other half who are mostly attached to international operations are unsure when they might get a regular income again.

Qantas is pushing the federal government to extend its Job Keeper scheme, or something similar, to the airline.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the aviation sector will need ongoing help, with JobKeeper wage subsidies and other coronavirus support measures to end in September, but was unable to offer any certainty.

“We are just working through the best way to target and deliver that support,” he said on Thursday, adding that could include JobKeeper or other measures.


Qantas chief executive officer Alan Joyce on Thursday said he did not expect the airline to resume international services in any significant way until July next year at the earliest.

“The collapse of billions of dollars in revenue leaves us little choice if we are to save as many jobs as possible long term,” Mr Joyce said.

“We have to position ourselves for several years where revenues will be much lower. And that means becoming a smaller airline in the short term.”

Mr Joyce said vital signs were strengthening for domestic operations and the airline has “extremely bright prospects for recovery”.

But to get there, the carrier will have to raise $1.9 billion through a share sale to balance its books.

Other drastic actions include grounding at least 100 aircraft for up to 12 months, including most of the international fleet.


Mr Joyce promised generous redundancy payouts, worth $600 million, to the 6000 who will lose their jobs – a mix of pilots, cabin crew, engineers, ground workers and corporate staff.

Voluntary redundancies will be offered before people are tapped to leave.

He said he would continue not taking a salary while executive staff will take a 15 per cent pay cut.

“This year was supposed to be one of celebration for Qantas. It’s our centenary. Clearly, it is not turning out as planned,” Mr Joyce said.

The three-year plan aims to have 21,000 active employees by June 2022. The Qantas Group currently has 29,000 staff.