This morning’s media stories that Qantas is about to wipe out or severely reduce its maintenance jobs at Melbourne’s main Tullamarine and Avalon airports are persuasive even though the airline denies that any decision will be made until the middle of this month.

The bottom line is that 660 jobs would go at Avalon and 400 at Tullamarine, while those at its Brisbane Airport facilities, which were given financial support by the Queensland state and are subject to a contract that would punish any closure or reductions are thus unlikely to be affected.

Who is responsible for the May Day Qantas jobs panic? Most likely the union side, although it is hypothetically possible that Qantas would try to encourage a massive package from the Victorian government.

The problem for labour is that Qantas will need less maintenance performed on newer types of jets that its old 747s, 767s and even some of its  737s, and in terms of operations, it is heading to the position that Virgin Australia already enjoys, which is that of a predominantly leased fleet of much younger jets that burn less fuel and require less costly maintenance.

However the problem for Qantas is that it has been waiting five years for its low maintenance Boeing 787 Dreamliners to drive such savings, and the substantial benefits of acquiring this jet maybe as much as four years into the future if we assume the group will make a bolt for the more competent 787-9 model rather than the current-8 model which remains under a cloud in terms of performance.

The issue is also enmeshed in the intention of Qantas to send heavy maintenance work offshore in the quest for lower costs, a strategy which may fail to deliver anything like the intended savings, or retain its control over maintenance quality, as Asia’s economic strength, and cost base, both rise.