Qantas: allegations “unfair and untrue"

Qantas: allegations “unfair and untrue"
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Qantas has attempted to placate shareholder anger at the airline's grounding last year by highlighting positive strides made since it stamped out industrial action.

Speaking at the airline’s annual general meeting in Canberra, chief executive Alan Joyce expressed “deep regret” at disruptions caused by the grounding, which took place the day after the last year’s AGM.

But he fervently denied accusations the airline had known about the grounding in advance. He insisted the decision came on the back of union comments made at the AGM, which suggested that the “slow bake” of industrial action could stretch over the next 12 months.

“It would have cost hundreds of thousands if it continued,” he said. “No decision was made until that Saturday.”

Joyce highlighted the airline’s recovery in the months since the grounding with the airline bouncing back in terms of ontime performance and customer satisfaction. Domestic operations, Jetstar and Qantas Frequent Flyer had all been profitable, he said.

Joyce added there has been “rapid progress” in Qantas’ five-year turnaround plan in “challenging times”.

“There’s still a long road ahead, but we should not discount the progress we have made,” he said.

The axing of loss making routes, the introduction of new and upgraded aircraft and the consolidation of heavy maintenance and catering had been costly, he admitted, adding that “one-off transformation costs” of $376 million had contributed to the airline’s statutory loss of $244m.

“But these restructuring costs are an investment for the future, so we can compete in this very volatile world,” Joyce told the AGM.

In addition, the Qantas chief pointed to the younger age of the fleet, now down to 8.3 years, and the airline’s retention of investment grade rating as success stories for the airline.

Emirates’ commitment to forging a deep alliance with Qantas was also a sign of the Flying Kangaroo’s strength, he said.

Chairman Leigh Clifford reiterated his “strong endorsement” of Joyce and his executive team, branding criticisms as “unfair and untrue”.

He attempted to reassure shareholders the airline was committed to paying dividends, despite non-payment over recent years.

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