Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce says the coronavirus outbreak will hit Australia's economy harder than the global financial crisis.
The national carrier announced on Thursday it will be suspending all international flights and standing down two-thirds of its 30,000 workers in the face of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is the worst crisis the aviation industry has gone through," Mr Joyce told ABC's 7.30 program.
"I know for the economy it's probably going to be a lot worse than the GFC."
Mr Joyce defended the decision to stand down about 20,000 workers, saying the company was allowing them to access to long service leave and take leave in advance.
"At the end of the day, we're protecting these jobs," he said.
"We're not making people redundant and we're trying this mechanism to make sure we can get through and survive and they have a job at the end of the day.
He told Leigh Sales he had been speaking to Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci about redeploying some of Qantas workers.
"He (Mr Banducci) thinks Qantas employees are ideal employees to have in loading shelves," Mr Joyce said.
The company, which has also frozen the pay of senior executives and board members, made an $891 million profit in FY19 but, like its competitors, has been decimated by the spread of the virus and escalating lockdown measures.
"This is every stakeholder in Qantas sharing the pain in order the company can come out of this strong and the company can survive into the future," Mr Joyce said.
Australian Associated Press
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