Qantas hopes 350 - or five per cent - of its cabin crew will take up voluntary redundancy, as the airline tries to cut costs in the face of rising jet fuel prices.
All of the 7000 carrier's cabin crew were contacted on Thursday and asked to give expressions of interest in the redundancy program.
The last time Qantas made such a call was in 2008, when 150 cabin crew took up its offer.
"We expect that around 350 voluntary redundancies may be offered to staff, that's around five per cent of our 7000 cabin crew," a Qantas spokesman told AAP today.
However, the numbers are not expected to be finalised until July when the expressions of interest process is completed.
Cabin crew have been assured that there would be no forced redundancies.
Qantas said the move was a reaction to the "considerable challenges" it now faces in the aviation market.
"Qantas still faces considerable challenges, including high jet fuel costs in our international business, and this voluntary redundancy is part of a number of measures that we are implementing to address these challenges," Qantas said in a statement today.
Chief executive Alan Joyce says Qantas is facing its most serious challenge since the peak of the global financial crisis.
"We need to act decisively to respond to rising fuel costs and natural disasters, just like we did during the global financial crisis, to ensure the ongoing sustainability of our business," he told ABC online.
Qantas wants to reduce its planned capacity growth on domestic flights from 14 to eight per cent, and on international routes from ten to seven per cent.
Qantas will also suspend up to four Jetstar services from Australia to Japan, as well as Qantas flights between Perth and Tokyo, and put a smaller capacity aircraft on the Sydney-Tokyo route.
The airline is also cutting three daily New Zealand domestic flights to Christchurch and one Melbourne to Christchurch flight, the ABC reports.
The announcement came on the same day the airline announced its international unit carried 509,000 passengers in April 2011, up 7.4 per cent from April 2010.
Qantas last month announced it will lift the price of its European flights after the EU, under its emissions trading scheme, said it would force the airline to pay a tax on 15 per cent of its carbon emissions from its nearest port of departure.
Meanwhile, a recent US study placed Qantas fourth in the world for revenue raised by ancillary charges for items such as baggage.
Qantas earned about $1.5 billion in 2010 as a result of the charges, consultancy firm IdeaWorks found, placing it fourth below US airlines Delta, American and United.
The move towards voluntary redundancy for cabin crew is the latest in a series of industrial issues for the airline.
The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) is currently considering industrial action over wages and conditions following a canvas of its 1700 members.
If the pilot's strike goes ahead, it will be the first of its kind in 45 years.
The airline's management have also recently been in negotiations with union groups over wage and working conditions.
In mid May, 1600 engineers scrapped plans for nationwide strikes.
Members of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) planned strikes at airports around the country as part of the ongoing row over pay and conditions.
On Thursday on the Australian Stock Exchange, Qantas closed down two cents at $2.09 a share, down 0.95 per cent.The new scholarship for Qatari nationals has a strong focus on business-centred degrees in majors such as Business Administration and Management, Marketing and Communications, Computer Science, Human Resources, Finance and Accounting, Logistics and Law.
It complements an existing scheme the airline runs in collaboration with Qatar's Aeronautical College, which prepares Qatari students to take on various roles within the aviation industry covering areas such as engineering, passenger services, airport operations, cargo and pilots.
The Aeronautical College course has been highly successful and today the airline employs a number of Qataris, including a high percentage of national pilots and managerial level engineers.
Each year, Qatar Airways takes on 50 Qatari pilots, who are trained at the Qatar Aeronautical College, and abroad. Qatari nationals are the second highest nationality group within Qatar Airways' pilot community. The total number of pilots within Qatar Airways currently stands at over 1,500.
Building on this success, the newly-introduced scholarship programme is yet another step taken by Qatar Airways to provide Qataris with support for educational success and enhanced career prospects within the national airline.
It is also a strategic business initiative in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030, which highlights the importance of investing in the country's human development in order for Qatar to become an advanced, knowledge-based and diversified economy. With this national vision in mind, the airline plans to grant up to 50 Qatari students with scholarships this year and increasing the numbers each year thereafter.
Commenting on the latest initiative, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said, "Recruiting Qatari talent is a priority at Qatar Airways. Employing and developing local talent is part of our corporate culture and we are committed to invest in young Qataris with potential as they will be key for Qatar Airways' long-term success. Qataris should feel proud of their national airline which has come a long way in the short, few years of operations. Qatar Airways has taken centre stage in the world of aviation, earning admiration from its international peers with its high standards of service and hospitality."
Added Al Baker, "This is something that I am proud of, our employees are proud of, and of course the people of Qatar should be proud of. Having expanded at a significant pace over the past 14 years and, with the opening of the New Doha International Airport on the horizon, ambitious Qataris are presented with a vast choice of fantastic job opportunities across the country's aviation industry. With the introduction of our national scholarship programme specifically designed for Qataris, we hope to spark interest and enthusiasm among talented nationals to work for Qatar Airways and to grow the number of employed local staff across all areas of our business."
The Qatar Airways National Scholarship Programme will mark its official debut on June 12 at the Oryx Rotana Hotel in Doha, where Dr. Kholode Al-Obaidli, recently appointed to head up the scheme, will brief students, parents and scholars on its objectives, admission requirements, selection process and the scholarship benefits.
The event is open to Qatari grade 12 students, their parents, as well as Deans, Principals and Career Counsellors of local schools and universities.
Still in its early stages, the initiative is already receiving a great response. "Since we started advertising the new programme in local media, applications are coming in on a daily basis," said Dr. Al-Obaidli, Senior Manager Qatar Airways National Scholarship Programme
"It proves that Qatar Airways is among the country's most sought-after employers, offering scholarship recipients the opportunity to work after completion of their studies in a highly dynamic and international environment," Dr. Al-Obaidli added.
One of the first applicants to enrol in the scholarship programme was Khalid Al Buenain, who is studying Marketing at the University of Anglia Ruskin in the English city of Cambridge. He is currently on a three-month internship at Qatar Airways' head office in Doha.
Al Buenain, aged 19, said, "I was thrilled to learn about the new scholarship programme established by Qatar Airways as it is a great opportunity for every Qatari passionate about aviation. My internship assures me that a career at Qatar Airways will give me a chance to grow, despite that being a challenging environment to work in. It is very hands-on, demanding and multi-tasking, but very rewarding. The knowledge and skills I am gaining every day are plentiful, both professionally and personally."
Fuelled by its rapid expansion, Qatar Airways is forging ahead with an aggressive recruitment drive and plans to take on an additional 3,500 staff annually over a three-year period across the group. With 19,000 employees currently working with the Qatar Airways Group of companies, the increase represents a 50% addition to the head count by 2014.
As a truly global airline covering six continents, Qatar Airways employs over 100 nationalities around the world. By 2013, Qatar Airways plans to serve more than 120 key business and leisure destinations worldwide with a modern fleet of over 120 aircraft. Today, the airline's fleet stands at 98 aircraft flying to over 100 destinations worldwide.