Qantas annual profit soars to AU$975m

Australia's flying kangaroo is out of the red, having boosted its annual profit by over AU$1.6 billion, following its turbulent 2014 financial year. Notably, the airline's data-driven loyalty program, Red Planet, experienced a profitable inaugural year and took off into the cloud.

For the financial year ending June 2015, Australia's Qantas Group has recorded an underlying profit before tax of AU$975 million, up more than AU$1.6 billion from the same time last year, when a loss of AU$646 million hit the flying kangaroo.

Over the course of the financial year, Qantas said it continued the rollout of new technology, including SMS check-in, a new system to improve handling of flight delays, as well as a mobile travel app.

Last year, the country's national airline took a loss of $646 million, but made grand plans to focus on the enhancement of efficiency through the employment of new technology across all of its business sectors.

The airline's 10.8 million member loyalty program, Qantas Loyalty -- a stand-alone business that provides services to the airline as well as to external companies -- recorded an underlying earnings before interests and taxes (EBIT) of AU$315 million, up 10 percent year-on-year.

Red Planet, the airline's loyalty offering that provides companies the opportunity to leverage Qantas' data, delivered profits within its first year, the company said. According to Qantas, Red Planet focuses on data driven online targeting, analytics and consumer insight, as well as customer research-focused.

Also impacting on the results of the company's loyalty sector was the 51 percent controlling stake it obtained in actuarial and data analytics consulting firm, Taylor Fry.

In April, Qantas continued its technology spending, deploying its website on Amazon Web Services as part of company's next phase of shifting workloads into the cloud.

In the year ahead, chief executive Alan Joyce told shareholders that Qantas' domestic area of focus is the continual investment in online and mobile technology across customer touchpoints, intended to deliver customer experience that also returns a revenue premium. Its international areas of focus include the leveraging of technology with the new PROS revenue management system, which employs flight data for analysis and insight.

Qantas also said it intends to acquire eight Boeing 787-9 aircraft in the 2017 calendar year to replace the 747s currently in use.

"New aircraft types have always unlocked opportunities for Qantas," the company said. "For customers, the Qantas Dreamliner's improved cabin pressure, larger windows, and technology to reduce turbulence will deliver the world's best travel experience."

With an investment in new technology and B787 fleet rollout, Qantas' budget airline, Jetstar, reported an underlying EBIT of AU$230 million, a turnaround of AU$346 million year-on-year.

Jetstar New Zealand was profitable for the first time since its inception, and according to the company, Jetstar's 2014/2015 financial accounts include a AU$21 million write-off of the Jetstar Hong Kong business, after the Hong Kong Air Transport Licensing Authority rejected the airline's application. The write-off was recognised outside of underlying EBIT, Qantas reported.

Jetstar introduced an automated bag drop function and a digitalised kiosk check-in in FY15. On the cards for the upcoming financial year, Jetstar said it will invest in a next-generation booking engine, and online retailing capabilities to drive its FY16 revenue growth.

The company said that both Qantas and Jetstar will be re-launching websites in 2016.

Qantas also announced on Thursday morning that it intends to distribute its AU$505 million surplus capital to shareholders, providing shareholders approve the decision at the company's annual general meeting in October.