Qantas made an underlying profit before tax of $417 million in the half year to December 31, 2010, a 56 per cent improvement over the $267 million reported in the  corresponding half in 2009.

However it will continue into a second year a divided freeze with no interim payout to shareholders.

The groups statutory profit  after tax in the half year is $241 million, four times  higher than the $58 million reported for the corresponding previous half year.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the economic impact on revenue and costs from the A380 grounding in the first half results was $55 million, and is estimated to be a further $25 million in the second half, later clarifying that these amounts represented the full impacts on underlying profits before taxes in their respective halves of the financial year to June 30, 2011.

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He said discussions continued with Rolls-Royce concerning compensation and the possibility of legal action against the engine maker remained reserved.

Qantas was fully insured for the costs of repairing the A380 that was severely damaged by the disintegration of a Rolls-Royce engine near Singapore on November 4. Joyce said the jet would cost at least $100 million to repair but would return to service by the end of the year.

The grounding of the A380 fleet following that accident pushed both the long haul routes to London and to Los Angeles into loss in the six month period, but Joyce declined to give a figure for those losses ‘for competitive reasons.’

He said Qantas and Jetstar had returned to the number 1 and 2 positions in domestic profitability in Australia in the half, which is the first official recognition from the group that it was beaten in profitability by the Virgin Blue group in the previous year in terms of airline operations, but not when frequent flyer program earnings were included.

Qantas also announced that it would buy ten Fokker F100 jets to expand its participation in the resources industry fly-in fly-out or FIFO market following its purchase of WA based operator Network Aviation.  Seven of these used Fokkers will be in service by the middle of next year.  It was also expanding its domestic Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A320 fleets by 18 and 15 aircraft respectively in the same period.

In underlying profitability terms, Qantas made $165 million PBT in the period, Jetstar $143 million and the loyalty program $107 million.