IMPULSE Airlines will decide today whether it will ground all or some of its Boeing 717 jets on Sunday night if it fails to gain approval for its deal with Qantas.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission continued yesterday to meet parties affected by the proposed alliance.
But Impulse executives are already preparing for the possibility the competition watchdog will not meet a May 14 deadline, beyond which the carrier says it cannot operate.
The Impulse stance last night was that it would pull out of the Sydney-Brisbane and Sydney-Melbourne market after Sunday if it failed to get approval.
Impulse spokesman Simon Westaway said there was a possibility the airline would maintain limited jet services for a short time after Monday but that had not yet been decided.
It would also make a decision on its Tasmanian jet services today.
"We are assessing our options but as of 4.10pm today, I can confirm to you that we are going to have some aircraft grounded and we're likely to be off Sydney-Melbourne, Sydney-Brisbane," he said.
"Any people that we're meant to be carrying for May 14th will be honoured by Qantas. But we'll be making a final call on that tomorrow."
Mr Westaway said the airline's bookings had dried up because of the confusion over the fate of the Qantas deal and as the deadline drew closer.
He said Impulse expected regional services would continue "effectively as normal".
Qantas spokesman Michael Sharp refused to confirm last night that Qantas would honour Impulse tickets if there was no ACCC decision but said both airlines had contingency plans in place.
"I don't want to speculate about what's going to happen. We may even have a decision on Monday," he said.
Impulse officials travelled to Canberra yesterday to assure the ACT Government that the deal to contract out planes and staff to Qantas would not affect projects which government grants totalling more than $10 million helped fund.
Mr Westaway said the airline had assured ACT officials it would commit to a call centre and heavy maintenance facility if the Qantas arrangement went ahead.
"We're committed to working with Qantas regarding creating a regional hub here in time with more regional routes filtering through Canberra."
But both Qantas and Impulse face angry reactions from workers who believe they are being kept in the dark.
The Australian Services Union yesterday held stop-work meetings to discuss the deal and its affect on jobs.
ASU spokeswoman Linda White said the meetings called for answers to a list of questions put earlier this week to Qantas management by union officials.
Staff also resolved that Qantas designated planes or reservations should not be handled by anyone other than Qantas-employed staff.
"Airport delegates have been authorised to develop an action plan if we don't get what we want," she said.