Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. Photo: Sasha Woolley

It often pays to play to your audience. As Qantas boss Alan Joyce was plugging its coup in getting the chance to fly the cast of top-rated US sitcom Modern Family to Australia next month, his chief financial officer, Gareth Evans, was reassuring investors that its financial position was sound despite another blow to its credit rating.

Without doubt, dragging one of the world's best-known families across the Pacific will help encourage more Americans to hop on flights to Australia, and boost one of Qantas' better-performing routes.

But the latest reassurances from Mr Evans again highlight the difference between what Qantas is telling the government and the wider public, versus financial markets.

One moment Qantas is fighting for its survival in the face of state-backed airlines pouring more cash into Virgin, the next it is a ''strong business with a track record for disciplined financial management''.

The question is whether the latest downgrade to junk raises the possibility of federal government support.

Nationals MPs are especially concerned about what a weakened Qantas would mean for flights to the bush. Yet Joyce treads a tightrope when playing to audiences. Over-stating Qantas' woes might win over more federal ministers to his cause, but it threatens to scare away investors and customers.

Brand damage is not something easily reversed. As Modern Family's Gloria, Mitch and Cam learn first-hand the finer aspects of Australian culture next month, Joyce and his executives will be hoping their campaigning has paid off, and that the government has delivered what they want - some form of financial guarantee.

Otherwise, they will have to seriously consider resorting to an act of a desperate airline - flogging assets.