Qantas considers removing life rafts

Last updated 13:25 23/05/2014

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The Australian civil aviation watchdog says a plan by Qantas to remove life rafts from some flights is in line with international standards, undermining claims the airline is more interested in savings than passenger safety.

South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has demanded Qantas abandon a plan to remove life rafts from Boeing 737 planes on some routes, despite it being a widespread industry practice which has also been implemented by other airlines.

The move would save about A$1 (NZ$1.07) million a year in fuel.

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 Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said Qantas would simply be operating in line with other carriers if it removed the life rafts.

"The rules do not require all commercial passenger flights within Australia to be fitted with life rafts. This is aligned with international standards for life rafts," a spokesman said.

"Qantas has informed CASA that it has not made any change to life rafts on its 737 fleet at this stage."

Virgin has been contacted for comment it is understood the airline has already removed life rafts on many of the planes in its 737 fleet.

Xenophon demanded Qantas abandon the plan, saying he had been approached by pilots and cabin crew working for the airline who had privately told him of their concerns.

"If a plane has to ditch off shore, every minute counts, and the savings are a joke," said Xenophon, who has written to Qantas chief executive Allan Joyce.

"People fly Qantas because it goes above and beyond the minimum regulatory requirements."

But Qantas is adamant the safety of passengers would not be put at risk and that any suggestion to the contrary was "scaremongering".

"I think CASA would reject that because it's their regulation," a Qantas spokesman told AAP.

"What I can confirm is that no decision on this has been made."

The airline would never do anything "that we felt compromised passenger safety", adding that the removal of life rafts on some routes was "not necessarily a new thing".

"In the past Qantas has not had life rafts on flights when it's not required by legislation," he said.

Earlier this year, Qantas announced a A$235 million half-year loss and revealed plans to axe 5000 jobs.

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- AAP

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