Hundreds of Illawarra residents are set to lose their jobs as part of the Qantas cuts, a union official said on Tuesday.
Qantas has announced it plans to axe 5000 jobs over the next three years but has yet to provide a breakdown of how many jobs will go in each division.
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) represents 4000 Qantas workers, including as many as 400 who live in the Illawarra.
Acting secretary for the TWU's Wollongong sub-branch, Nick McIntosh, said that across the board, the number of sacked Illawarra Qantas workers could climb into the hundreds.
Mr McIntosh estimated that one in six Qantas workers would lose their jobs, which could have big ramifications for the Illawarra.
"Short of a BlueScope or somebody shutting down, I think this is going to be one of the biggest sets of job losses in the Illawarra for a while," Mr McIntosh said.
He said Qantas workers who lost their jobs would find it hard to get another in the industry.
"You're going to have a hell of a lot of people in the airline industry out of work at the same time, which is going to make competition for jobs in that industry even tougher than it already is," Mr McIntosh said.
For those Illawarra workers facing the sack, finding another job in the same industry would be even harder.
"To be honest, the only way that people in the Illawarra are going to be able to get other jobs in the airline industry is if they take lower-paying jobs with worse conditions at third-party companies, those companies that are almost labour hire-type companies," he said. "The Qantas wage and conditions were reasonably good to compensate for the travel and the time it took to get there.
"If you're going to go and work for someone who is going to pay less, the incentive's not really going to be there."
Within the Illawarra, the jobs weren't going to be there either.
"If they can't get another job in the airline industry, the other options aren't that great in the Illawarra at the moment in terms of the transport industry," he said. "People who have been in Qantas 20-plus years, that's all the skills that they know. It's not like you can say 'Hey mate, come and drive a truck'.
"When a truck driver loses their job, there's hundreds of trucking companies out there."