Qantas has reacted angrily to accusations that a plan to remove life rafts from some flights puts savings before safety.
South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon has demanded Qantas abandon a proposal to remove life rafts from Boeing 737 planes on some routes, despite it being a widespread industry practice.
Senator Xenophon said he had been approached by pilots and cabin crew working for the airline who had told him of their concerns.
“If a plane has to ditch offshore, every minute counts, and the savings are a joke,” said Senator Xenophon, who has written to Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce.
“People fly Qantas because it goes above and beyond the minimum regulatory requirements.”
Qantas has not made a final decision on the plan, which would affect Boeing 737s on routes that do not take aircraft more than 400 nautical miles off the coast.
The move would save about $1 million a year in fuel.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said Qantas would be operating in line with other carriers if it removed the life rafts.
“No decisions have been made regarding changes to on-board equipment,” a Qantas spokesman 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.”
In February, Qantas announced a $252 million half-year loss and revealed plans to axe 5000 jobs.
Rival airline Virgin said it met all regulatory requirements.
“Life rafts are carried on all services flown over water which travel 120 minutes from land (at normal cruising speed) or 400 miles (whichever is less),” it said in a statement.