Qantas has supported a suggestion by Australian treasurer Joe Hockey that restrictions on foreign ownership of the carrier should be lifted.

Hockey reportedly hinted that the government could lift foreign ownership limits or provide support to Qantas to allow the airline to compete more effectively against its domestic rival Virgin Australia.

The treasurer flagged possible changes to the regulatory restrictions on Qantas, which says the restrictions have created an unfair domestic playing field.

Current rules limit total foreign holding of Qantas to 49%, with foreign airlines allowed to own just 35%.

Qantas has claimed the rules have hurt its growth, not least because Virgin Australia has benefited from increased foreign investment.

Qantas has struggled recently amid rising competition and slowing demand.

The airline has forged a partnership with Emirates, with the two collaborating on pricing, sales and flight scheduling. Qantas has said the partnership has started to help turn around its fortunes.

Chief executive Alan Joyce said: “What we have seen is the politicians listening to our arguments, the politicians saying there is an unlevel playing field here.”

He called on authorities to take “urgent, immediate action” to help sustain its growth further.

This comes as Virgin Australia is tapping its major shareholders – Etihad Airways , Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand – for A$350 million in new capital to bolster its balance sheet.