“It is a good feeling to be at the helm of this great company as it begins the first phase of a remarkable turnaround,” Qantas Group boss, Alan Joyce, told a media conference in Sydney last week after he announced the airline’s $713 million return to full-year profitability. Revelling in his success, Joyce made it clear he wanted to continue as the carrier’s CEO for some time. The Sydney Morning Herald said Qantas’ largest institutional investors wanted Joyce to see through the A$2 billion cost-cutting program he started last year.
Joyce’s extended tenure means Qantas board chairman, Leigh Clifford, will be the most likely member of the board to retire in coming months. Leigh, 68 next month, assumed the reins from Margaret Jackson in 2007 after a botched private equity deal to sell off Qantas. He has witnessed Qantas fighting a bitter capacity war with rival Virgin Australia, the grounding of the fleet to end an industrial dispute, and its plea for financial help from the Abbott government when things turned really bad just over twelve months ago. There is speculation that Clifford will announce his future plans at the airline group’s AGM in October.
Qantas last week firmed up an order for eight B787-9s. The first four will be delivered in the 2017-2018 financial year, with the next four following in 2018 and 2019. They will replace five B747s and be used to launch international destinations. "Obviously, a market like Melbourne-Dallas opens up as an opportunity for us," Joyce said. Also on the list are "routes that have low levels of traffic that don't justify a B747 and routes that are less frequent which we want to get to daily," he explained. Since the 787 is smaller than the jumbos it will gradually replace “it gives us the flexibility of having more aircraft without significantly changing our overall capacity". Qantas still has 15 purchase options and 30 purchase rights for the B787. Asked why Qantas had not ordered the A350, Joyce said “the B787-9 was on all counts the better aircraft for Qantas or the market that we're talking about and the network that we're talking about”.
In more good news for Qantas, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) last Friday appeared to take note of a range of government, tourism and transport bodies by dropping its opposition to the proposed Qantas-China Eastern Airlines alliance. The ACCC said it had "decided on balance" to grant approval for five years, but it imposed conditions that require both carriers to report their monthly average fares and boost capacity between Australia and Mainland China by 21% during the period