Qantas to cut 5000 jobs

Qantas will axe 5000 jobs after posting a $252 million first half loss.

The company will sell its 31-year-old Brisbane terminal lease back to the airport corporation for $112 million.

Qantas has reached a deal with Brisbane Airport Corporation to retain exclusive use and operational control over ‘‘much’’ of the northern end of the terminal until the end of 2018 while securing rights to key infrastructure beyond this period.

The airline is believed to be negotiating a similar deal at Melbourne Airport.

The sale of the airport lease is part of a restructure and cost cutting drive that aims to eliminate $2 billion in costs over the next three years.

The Brisbane Airport lease covers terminal and runway access, was signed in 1987 and was due to expire at the end of 2018.

Qantas said the airport corporation would assume control of the retail space within the terminal and runway system including a runway that’s being built.

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said it was a win-win for both parties and would have significant benefits to Queensland.

‘‘Brisbane Airport is one of the most important airports for Qantas today and increasingly so into the future,’’ he said.

‘‘The deal is in line with our strategy of unlocking value in non-core assets.’’

Mr Joyce said the agreement reached with Brisbane Airport on the new parallel runway was consistent with the Qantas Group’s position of not pre-funding airport infrastructure before actually using it.

Of the planned job cuts, Qantas says 1500 will come from management and non-operational roles.

The remainder will come as a result of changes to the fleet and network, the restructure of maintenance operations and the restructure of catering facilities.

‘‘I regret the need for these wide ranging job losses, but we will do everything we can to make the process easier for employees who leave the business,’’ CEO Alan Joyce said.

The airline says more than 50 aircraft will be deferred or sold, with older planes like 747s to be retired early and orders of A380s and B787-8s to be delayed.It will also axe underperforming routes including its Perth to Singapore service, while timing and aircraft changes will be made to other routes.

The carrier’s underlying $252 million loss was at the bottom end of the $250 million to $300 million range flagged in December.

But it was still a sharp deterioration from the $192 million full-year underlying profit it recorded for the 2012/13 financial year.

Mr Joyce said the result was unacceptable.

‘‘We must take actions that are unprecedented in scope and depth to strengthen the core of the Qantas Group business,’’ he said.

Mr Joyce said the airline continued to see major opportunities for its subsidiary Jetstar in Asia, despite challenging conditions and calls for it to exit the market.

However, Jetstar Asia would suspend its expansion in Singapore until conditions improved.

‘‘Jetstar has been a pioneer Australian brand across Asia and we continue to see major opportunities for it in the world’s fastest-growing aviation region,’’ Mr Joyce said.

Mr Joyce again hit out at rival Virgin, which counts three foreign airlines - Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand - among its owners.

‘‘The Australian domestic market has been distorted by current Australian aviation policy, which allows Virgin Australia to be majority-owned by three foreign government-backed airlines yet retain access to Australian bilateral flying rights,’’ he said.

‘‘Late last year, these three foreign-airline shareholders invested more than $300 million in Virgin Australia.... that capital injection has supported continued domestic capacity growth by Virgin Australia despite its growing losses.’’

Qantas has been lobbying the federal government for non-cash support.

The government is drafting changes to the Qantas Sale Act, which could give the carrier room to move some operations offshore and attract more foreign investment.

It could also be given a government debt guarantee, which would reduce its borrowing costs.

Qantas said it had a total liquidity of $3 billion, including $2.4 billion in cash reserves.

CRUNCH TIME FOR QANTAS - THE KEY MOVES

* Underlying first half loss of $252 million before tax;

*Aiming to cut $2 billion in costs over three years;

*Capital expenditure to be slashed by $1 billion over next two financial years;

*5000 jobs to be axed from 33,000-strong workforce;

*Wages for all staff to be frozen; chief executive Alan Joyce already slashed own pay by 36 per cent;

*Ageing planes retired, including six Boeing 747 jumbos;

*Orders of new A380s and B787-8s delayed;

*Cutback on aircraft maintenance operations and catering;

*Underperforming routes to be slashed, including Perth to Singapore

*Brisbane Airport lease to be handed back to airport corporation for $112 million, will retain exclusive use of northern end of terminal until 2018;

*Discussions with Melbourne and Sydney airports on its terminals are continuing; and

*Other assets are under consideration for sale, but no firm decisions yet.

AAP

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