The move yesterday in which Qantas offered voluntary redundancy to all 7000 cabin attendants has raised concerns among pilots that it may also be planning a reduction in pilot numbers rather than resorting to managing rosters and leave provisions.

Qantas has nominated the combined effect of natural disasters, including floods, disasters and earthquakes as the driver of the need to cut existing services as has already occurred on Japan and Christchurch routes, and a need to pull back on the capacity growth previously anticipated for the next year or so.

It also qualified the release of yesterday’s traffic statistics for April, which showed good gains compared to earlier periods, because those comparisons were variously compromised by the natural disasters, and the unnatural aftermath of the global financial crisis.

But the most troubling references in the Qantas announcements are those concerning the price of fuel. Despite the space created by a strong Australian dollar  in terms of US dollar denominated benchmark oil prices, those prices are threatening to rise to levels where all airlines cannot afford to fly, because the demand effects of surcharges reaches a point where they cannot recover the total costs of operating flights.

For Qantas to be embroiled in such  costly absurdities as trying to fly to and from Dallas Forth Worth non-stop with limited luggage and uncertainty for its customers at the same time as it confronts real external threats is very bad timing.

And it is also self-inflicted. A well run airline with a clear commitment to its brand is obviously better placed to deal with such factors than one finding itself distracted by avoidable labor, network, product and brand confusion issues, which are all things that Qantas has brought upon itself.