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aviation

Feb 21, 2013

Crippled Dreamliner program keeps Qantas in black

Qantas continues to do it tough, partly through its own fault, and partly through the grindingly tough factors of fuel costs, changing consumer expectations, and too many wickedly smart competitors, that are the lot of most airlines throughout the world today

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One of the shocking sets of numbers in this morning’s Qantas half year to 31 December profit result of a statutory profit of $111 million after tax is that it booked $125 million in liquidated damages from Boeing for cancelled 787 Dreamliners in the same period.

Headlines about ‘dud jet saves Qantas from ruin’ will probably tempt the media throughout the day, although the reality is much more complex but not a pretty read from any perspective once all of the filings to the ASX made by the Qantas group are taken into account.

These were the headline figures Qantas led with in its media release:

These are the nittier and grittier figures that are contained in the full half year results.

Qantas international‘s underlying profit before interest and tax was a loss of $91 million in first half FY13, a 65% improvement on a loss of $172 million in first half FY12. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce made the point that this confirms the troubled long haul division is on track to return to profitability in FY15.

Qantas domestic‘s underlying result on the same basis was a profit of $218 million, which is a steep fall from $328 million in first half FY12, and one which the company attributes to tougher competition, two words that stand for Virgin Australia.

Jetstar‘s total contribution to profits were also down to $128 million in the first half compared to $147 million in the comparable half in FY12, although Qantas pointed to a 12% rise in its revenues and a substantial investment in its expansion in Australia and in its offshore franchises.

The crown with the jewels was again loyalty, with the Qantas frequent flyer program posting a record half yearly profit of $137 million compared to $119 million in the same period in FY12.

In terms of fleet developments little was said about the Dreamliners today, apart from the glory-in-failure aspect of the very timely $125 million in liquidated damages included in the first half FY13 results.

The big, big news is a total remake of the Qantas A330 fleet, with new flat bed seats in business class and a new economy class product throughout the 10 A330-300s that will be used for Qantas services to Asia and the 20 A330-200s which will be used on domestic routes, especially to Perth from the eastern states but starting late in 2014.

This is an intriguing development for Qantas watchers because it is clearly predicated on all of the A330-200s being used by Jetstar being returned to Qantas and being replaced by 787s for Jetstar, which despite deliveries officially still taking place from August this year  would seem to be at some risk.

Qantas deserves some recognition for being the world’s most profitable user of Dreamliners even without having ever taken delivery of one.  It is hard to imagine what Boeing is thinking about this.

There has also been a minor topping up of the Qantas 737-800 fleet announced, in which the real significance is the lack of a Qantas order for single aisle fleet replacements later in the decade by either the 737 MAX new engine technology jet or the Airbus A320NEO family, which Qantas has already ordered for Jetstar anyhow.

Those hoping for 777s for Qantas, or for some sort of sugar daddy deal from Emirates for a few dozen of them to suddenly materialise were, as always, dreaming, including the writer.  If such excitement is in store with the Emirates partnership, it didn’t get any daylight this morning.

On reflection, Qantas continues to do it tough, partly through its own fault, and partly through the grindingly tough factors of fuel costs, changing consumer expectations, and too many wickedly smart competitors, that are the lot of most airlines throughout the world today.

The next installment of the joy and tears of being an Australian airline will be delivered by Virgin Australia with its first half FY13 results next Tuesday.

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