Qantas landed its record before tax profit of $1.408 billion for the year to June 30 this morning with departing CEO Geoff Dixon fobbing off real questions about the damage maintenance issues have done to the carrier’s reputation.

The headline financial results are outstanding. The PBT is 46% higher, exceeding market expectations of around a 40% improvement, for a net profit of $970 million and a final fully franked dividend of 17 cents per share for a full year ordinary dividend of 35 cents.

But his opening comments for his last profit announcement conceded nothing in terms of the carriers inability to fly clean aircraft to schedule, or deal in detail or with candour with serious safety issues.

Dixon said “Not surprisingly some people may be concerned that we have taken our eyes off the ball. This is not the case at all. The one thing that has not changed is that safety is our No 1 priority.”

He said “We don’t deny that the incident affecting QF 31 (the hole in the side diversion to Manila) was really serious. While we acknowledge the seriousness of some incidents, others … represent a huge range of engineering incidents, not all of them serious…

“We have very few incidents really. How we respond to these incidents is what matters. Our policy is safety before schedule and holding up departures when we must.”

Dixon didn’t take a question as to why the company trivialised its failure to complete a compulsory repair to a pressure bulkhead in six older 737s for five years, or how failing to track such directives was a grave contradiction of its claims not to have cut its safety standards or put profits above all other considerations including passenger service.

However he did say all of the 737s in question were back in service, and that the damage to the 747-400 that made an emergency diversion to Manila last month would cost less than $10 million to repair and would return to service in October.

Nor did a question to both Dixon and his successor Alan Joyce get through as to whether further reductions of the engineering and maintenance resource as applicable to the existing fleet would occur, although Joyce did speak fondly of the savings that could be expected from the new jets coming into the fleet in giant A380s and so called 787 “Dreamliners”.

When Joyce was asked if one of his tasks was to rebuild the reputation of Qantas he said he would be building upon it.

Passengers who experienced very long delays yet again in their Perth flights yesterday because of several aircraft breakdowns can make their own mind up as to whether to this is a patsy non-statement or the first hint that a year of miserably unpunctual flights in the west might start to improve.

Dixon said his executive general manager and the longest serving senior manager at Qantas, John Borghetti, would not follow the former CFO, Peter Gregg, who resigned this week, into the departure lounge, and was keen to continue working for the airline under the new Joyce team from the end of November.

Peter Fray

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