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Qantas cuts jobs as profits dive

By Hilary Whiteman, CNN
February 16, 2012 -- Updated 0303 GMT (1103 HKT)
Qantas plans at Sydney airport
Qantas plans at Sydney airport
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Qantas net profit falls 83% in six months to end of December
  • Industrial action, high fuel prices dragged on profit figure
  • Carrier plans to cut capital expenditure to shore up business
  • Airline grounded hundreds of flights last October in dispute

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Australian airline Qantas is shedding another 500 jobs as it seeks to cut costs after a massive fall in net profit in the first half of the financial year.

Net profit dived 83% to $45 million (A$42M) in the six months to December due to rising fuel prices and flight cancellations during an industrial dispute in October.

Chief executive Alan Joyce talked up the results, saying the airline's portfolio of businesses had once again shown "resilience in difficult conditions."

"Improvements in operating cash flow, revenue, yield and unit costs, and record results for Jetstar and Qantas Frequent Flyer, helped offset the financial effect on the Group," he said.

Jetstar, the company's low-cost carrier, set a new record for operating earnings before interest and tax of $147 million, up 4% on the previous period. And despite flight disruptions, the airline now counts 8.3 million frequent fliers who are also contributing to profits.

Seven injured in turbulence

The airline's shares rose in Sydney as investors signaled their approval of the company's plans to slash capital expenditure by $700 million over the next two financial years.

Qantas resuming flights

The carrier announced that it was reviewing its maintenance facilities in Australia and consolidating its catering and engineering operations.

Qantas flying again after strike

Joyce conceded that the airline had been hit hard by industrial action, however he said that the airline's brand and customer satisfaction ratings had improved "signficantly" since the grounding. At the time, thousands of passengers were stranded at airports around the world after Qantas ordered the grounding of 447 flights.

The labor relations tribunal Fair Work Australia stepped in at the behest of the government and ordered an end to the two-day dispute to avoid damage to the tourism industry.

The grounding was a flashpoint in a long-term battle between Qantas and unions representing pilots and engineers working for the Australian domestic and international airline.

Union officials have accused the airline of planning to outsource ground jobs at a cost of thousands of Australian jobs and of putting profits first. Pay and working conditions have also been at the center of the dispute.

Qantas, which has its headquarters in Sydney, is the second-oldest airline in the world and marked its 90th anniversary last year.

It employs about 32,500 people and flies to more than 180 destinations worldwide, according to the company website.

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