Alan Joyce has defended Qantas’ decision to keep $2.7bn in taxpayers’ money despite posting a record-breaking profit.
In the company’s first profitable result since before the pandemic, Qantas on Thursday announced a record full-year underlying profit of $2.47bn for the full year of 2023.
Qantas’ record payday has renewed pressure on the company to justify the billions it received in pandemic-era support.
Joyce, Qantas’ chief executive, told the ABC’s 7.30 program $2.7bn was given to the airline by the government before he defended and broke down the cost.
He said that $500m was spent on freight flights to help exports, as well as $500m on domestic flights to fly medication between states and help people reach hospitals.
“Over 30,000 flights that we operated on behalf of the government,” he said.
He then addressed the most controversial component of the handout, the $900m provided to Qantas for JobKeeper.
“We stood down 25,000 people because we hadn’t got jobs for them, that went to our people to help them get through,” he said.
After-tax, Qantas’ statutory profit surged to $1.74bn, with the company saying it grew profit margins thanks to growing demand for flights, higher airfare prices and lower operating costs.
The full-year results to June 30 are more than $800m higher than the airline’s previous profits record in FY2018 when it posted an underlying profit before tax of $1.6bn.
The millions of dollars in JobKeeper payments are far from the only thing Qantas is under pressure for.
In December, the Federal Court found that Qantas breached the Fair Work Act after it outsourced nearly 2000 baggage and ground handlers during the pandemic to avoid future industrial action.
Qantas is appealing this decision in the High Court.
The airline was also served a class action claim on Monday seeking millions of dollars in compensation for the Qantas customers who never received refunds for money or points that they spent on trips that were ultimately cancelled due to the pandemic. The airline denies this.
Qantas has also faced strident criticism for its service, with flight disruptions, delays and cancellations, high ticket prices, lost baggage, and suggestions of widespread technical faults with its aircraft adding to its woes.