Qantas has called for voluntary redundancies among check-in and other ground staff at Sydney Airport's international terminal following the loss of a multi-million-dollar contract with Air New Zealand.
The airline's management will meet the Australian Services Union, which represents customer-service staff at Qantas, on Friday to discuss the number of jobs likely to be lost.
Both sides said there would not be compulsory redundancies.
Qantas's long-standing contract to provide ground-handling services for Air New Zealand at airports including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth will end in March.
The multi-million-dollar contract is one of Qantas's largest, and includes checking in of passengers and baggage handling.
The ASU's assistant national secretary, Linda White, said Qantas staff at Sydney Airport's international terminal were most likely to be affected by the loss of the contract with Air New Zealand. At other Australian airports, Qantas was likely to able to redeploy staff to other roles, she said.
''They did call for expressions of interest among the check-in and customer-service staff but the exact number is still very fluid. We should know at the end of the week,'' she said.
''The place that was affected the most was Sydney because it has the most flights [by Air New Zealand]. Whatever happens, it is not going to be compulsory.''
The ASU represents as many as 700 customer-service staff at Qantas.
Air New Zealand made a decision in November to contract Toll Dnata to do the work.
Airlines are increasingly turning to cheaper third-party operators such as Toll Dnata and Menzies Aviation for ground-handling services at airports.
A Qantas spokesman said the airline was looking at what impact the loss of the ground-handling contract would have on its employees but it did not expect it to result in compulsory redundancies.
Qantas was once dominant in ground-handling services but thin margins have made it difficult to compete against the third-party operators. In 2009, Cathay Pacific ditched Qantas in favour of Menzies for ground-handling services at the Australian airports it flies to.
The threat of further job cuts comes after Qantas announced last year that it will be axing about 1260 roles from its engineering and maintenance operations in Australia. Heavy maintenance will be centralised at a base in Brisbane.
- Sydney Morning Herald