Qantas this morning reported a 9.6%
fall
in its first half profit to $353 million,
blaming higher fuel prices. The result is a little better than most market
expectations but the shares came off a few cents anyway.

The bottom line shouldn’t be the only area
of interest, though, for journalists
asking questions as Crikey’s deadline bites. First, there’s the speculation
about moving long-haul heavy maintenance (and 2,500 jobs) offshore to China, as
the Smage‘s Scott Rochfort has been suggesting. There’s also been speculation about shifting short-haul maintenance to NZ or
even Indonesia. The relationship between CEO Geoff Dixon and the Qantas unions
looks like going only one way.

Then there’s the interesting management
restructuring announced with the results. Qantas-watchers keen to divine omens for the appointment of the post-Dixon CEO
in the shuffle will be reading hard between the lines. I’m not sure it means
too much though – Dixon continues to push Peter Gregg as the next chief pilot, adding the
title of “Executive General Manager Strategy” to his CFO gig.

However, the board apparently doesn’t want
it to be a one-horse race. The restructuring could be read as positioning John
Borghetti and Alan Joyce to face off against each other in the flying
businesses.

And then there’s the spreading
investigation
of a suspected international cartel in the air cargo
business. It started with raids on the
offices of the major airlines in Europe on Tuesday night and spread yesterday
to Asia. Among the airlines raided are Air France, KLM, BA, Lufthansa, SAS, American
Airlines, United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, JAL, Korean
Air… gee, this list is beginning to read like just about every major airline
you can think of – except one.

An international air cargo cartel could
only work if all the major players were in on it, one might think.
Investigators have been careful to say that this is an investigation with no
firm case made yet, but it certainly seems to be a very large effort to mount
so many surprise raids.

Certainly, the aviation business is never
dull.

Peter Fray

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