Adam Susz dreamed of becoming a Qantas captain, but he didn't think he would face a 24-year wait before that could happen.
As a pilot of 20 years, 16 of those with Qantas, he is now waiting to learn whether he and his colleagues are among 5000 employees who will lose their jobs.
''I'm disappointed to hear of heavy job losses at Qantas. At this stage we haven't been told if pilots will be part of the 5000 cuts or not,'' he said.
Mr Susz, who is also the treasurer for the Australian and International Pilots Association, said 200 Qantas pilots were working for expanding airlines including Emirates and Etihad to gain promotion. It was possible to become a captain within three years at Emirates, compared to 24 years at Qantas.
''As a first officer my next step is to be a captain and that has always been my dream. I just didn't think it would take 24 years to get there.''
A Qantas steward told Fairfax Media she was relying on the media for information about the job cuts. ''It's all a bit of a shock really,'' she said. ''I have to find out what's happening on the news.''
A number of Qantas staff members and unions said they were angry the company had been mismanaged. An airline service operator who has worked for the company for 15 years said he had no idea whether he would keep his job.
''If they are going to start to cut jobs they should really start to cut them at the top, not at the coal face,'' he said.
The worker, aged in his 50s, said it would be ''devastating'' to lose his job at a time when the federal government was talking about raising the retirement age to 70.
Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon said each baggage handler, check-in staff and ramp worker generates a $205,000 return to Qantas above the cost of their employment.
''Sacking them is like a tradesman selling his tools to pay a one-off bill,'' he said.
''If Qantas needs to make savings it should stop siphoning funds to the failing Jetstar Asia.''
Linda White, assistant national secretary of the Australian Services Union, which represents check-in, clerical, finance and administration staff, said Qantas had indicated 1500 ''back office'' jobs would be lost.
The union will oppose a wage freeze when it meets with Qantas officials on Friday.
More than 60 per cent of the workers earn base salaries of $37,000 to $57,000 and 35 per cent are part time.
''They are ordinary people who are being asked to take a cut,'' she said.