Qantas chief Alan Joyce launched a media blitz Wednesday to defend the company's controversial Asia-focused restructuring plans, saying they were vital to prevent the carrier becoming irrelevant.
The airline has faced a firestorm of criticism from unions over the revamp that will see 1,000 jobs slashed as part of its new emphasis on Asia, aimed at staunching heavy losses from its international business.
"Under my leadership, Qantas will not withdraw into itself as our detractors would like us to do. Doing so would condemn Qantas to irrelevance and inevitable decline," the Irish-born Joyce wrote in The Australian.
As part of the plan, Qantas will spend US$9.5 billion on new planes and team up with Japan Airlines and Mitsubishi Corp. to launch a new low-cost domestic airline, Jetstar Japan.
It will also set up a joint-venture premium airline based in Asia and strengthen its code-share partnership with British Airways, which will carry more passengers between Qantas's Asian destinations and Europe.
Furious unions have threatened strike action, accusing Qantas of outsourcing jobs and trashing its Australian brand.
Joyce, who previously worked at Irish carrier Aer Lingus and the now-defunct Ansett Australia, said this was nonsense.
"Qantas is one of the biggest employers in Australia," he said in a statement, adding that the company had over 35,000 staff in the country.
"Of the 1,000 positions that will be made redundant, not a single job will be lost as a result of Qantas' plans to invest in a new premium airline in Asia.
"Some of the numbers being quoted today by union leaders -- of between 5,000 and 10,000 jobs affected -- are completely unfounded."
In a series of television and radio interviews, Joyce added that the company could no longer afford to operate a loss-making international arm, and switching focus to the growth region of Asia was a sound business decision.
"Comprehensive reform is needed, but contrary to the hysterical claims made by a number of unions, this is not an 'attack' on the Qantas brand or 'destructive' for its future," he wrote in The Australian.
"It is about making smart decisions that take a great Australian company further into the growth markets that are leading the world economy."
Joyce said the alternative was the airline dying a slow death.
"No Australian companies can afford to ignore these opportunities. In other sectors, closer engagement with Asia is regarded as essential.
"This is just the beginning of the change process," he added.
Qantas has been grappling with disasters and surging fuel costs and Joyce has previously estimated that the company's international operations will record a loss of Aus$200 million (US$209 million) before tax this year.