Australia’s Qantas Airways Thursday said it was axing first class from all but a handful of routes in a post-financial crisis overhaul, as half-year profit slumped 72 percent to 52 million US dollars.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said passengers would only be able to fly first class between Australia and London, via Singapore, and between Australia and Los Angeles after demand dropped dramatically in the wake of the downturn.
“Our first class product will remain on key routes,” chief executive Alan Joyce told reporters. “It’s a re-balance – there are more business class seats and less first class seats,” he said.
The flag-carrier will reconfigure 29 aircraft and upgrade some planes’ in-flight entertainment at a cost of 400 million Australian dollars (360 million US), leaving first class on just 12 Airbus A380s.
“The reconfiguration is driven by the longer-term trend of what we believe is happening in demand,” Joyce said.
“The long-term trend in first class has been for a decline.
Our seat factor (load) in first class has been below 40 percent, so we have plenty of room to cope with all expected future demand,” he added.
The first-half announcement, and failure to pay an interim dividend, sent shares into a tailspin with Qantas down 7.4 percent at 2.75 Australian dollars by lunchtime.
However, Joyce was upbeat despite the steep on-year slump, pointing out that many competitors were booking losses as the world recovers from the downturn.