Qantas silent on reported plans to sack 5000 employees

QANTAS is refusing to confirm or deny reports the financially troubled airline will axe up to 5,000 jobs as part of its efforts find $2 billion in savings.

The airline is said to be preparing to announce deeper job cuts than previously expected when it unveils a half year loss of up to $300 million on Thursday.

A report from News Corp Australia says the airline is planning to axe up to 5,000 workers, well above the 2,000 jobs losses previously expected, with 1,500 of those jobs expected to come from the company's executive and support divisions.

It also claimed Qantas was looking to sell its lease on Melbourne Airport and would announce the sale of its Brisbane Airport lease this week.

Qantas says it won't comment on the reports.

"There is fresh speculation about what things we will or won't announce on Thursday as part of our half year results,'' the airline said in a statement.

"We are not in a position to comment on that speculation.''

But the airline acknowledged it would be making some "tough decisions'' as part of its cost-cutting program.

"We have said that we will be making some tough decisions in order to achieve $2 billion in cost savings over the next three years, which is a consequence of an unprecedented set of market conditions now facing Qantas,'' it said.

Qantas has been lobbying the federal government for assistance, most likely in the form of a debt guarantee, though possibly also through the lifting of foreign ownership restrictions on the airline.

Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann this morning declined to speculate about what assistance the federal government might give Qantas, amid reports the ailing airline could announce the widespread job losses.

The government is considering support for the national carrier, such as a debt guarantee, after the airline complained the Qantas Sale Act was hampering its efforts to compete against the likes of Virgin.

Asked to respond to the speculation about job losses, Senator Cormann repeated the government's view that the Sale Act restricting foreign ownership should be amended.

"Beyond that we are currently considering some proposals that were put before us by Qantas," he told reporters in Canberra this morning.

"When we are in a position to make an announcement we will make an announcement."

The airline reportedly has been negotiating to sell the long-term lease for its Melbourne Airport terminal.

Labor MP Kelvin Thomson said job losses at Qantas would be concerning after those announced by Toyota and Alcoa.

However, he dismissed suggestions that Labor should drop its opposition to changing the Qantas Sale Act.

"Changing the Qantas Sale Act ... means selling Qantas to a foreign corporation. Let's not mince words, that's what it is," he told reporters in Canberra.

"If you sell Qantas to a foreign corporation you essentially lose it and lose all control over it. It is gone."