He told a parliamentary committee in Sydney that his airline needed the same flexibility as rivals like Virgin.

Arguing for a fairer regulations, he said: “If our competitor has the ability, which it does, to do all of its heavy maintenance, its call centres, everything, offshore then for Qantas to compete on a level playing field, to have the same options as that competition, it needs the same freedom.”

But an inquiry considering the so-called Qantas Sale Act heard that the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association has raised a series of safety concerns about the standard of work in international maintenance facilities.

Head of the association, Stephen Purvinas highlighted the case of an aircraft serviced in Hong Kong that came back with washers screwed on upside down on three out of four aircraft engines.

However, Alan Joyce insisted that any passenger who had ever travelled on a non-Qantas aeroplane would already have travelled on an offshore maintained aircraft.

“We are the only airline that does its heavy maintenance here. If people have a problem with how maintenance is done offshore then they shouldn’t fly any other airline.”

Image credit: Qantas