Qantas has moved a step closer towards a potential Boeing 787-9 order after its long-haul pilots voted in favour of a four-year wage agreement.
The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) said on Thursday 88 per cent of its 1,300 members voted on the new agreement, with 82 per cent approving the package.
While the new deal did not significantly change the terms and conditions relating to Qantas’s existing fleet, notwithstanding an 18-month wage freeze followed by an annual three per cent increase, the package did include some new provisions on potential 787 flying.
AIPA president and Qantas pilot Nathan Safe said the enterprise agreement “satisfies a business case for Qantas international to consider purchasing Boeing 787s, with a possible entry into service as early as 2017”.
“The brightest future for the vast majority of our members is provided by an airline that is positioned for sustainable growth,” Safe said in a statement.
The company has about 50 options and purchase rights for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Qantas International chief executive Gareth Evans said in June the first 787-9 option was for delivery in late calendar 2017, with the remaining delivery slots spread out over the rest of the decade.
A decision on whether to exercise that first option would be made in the “back half of this year”.
“We’ve got specific pricing, specific delivery slots and the ability to essentially drop and pick up those slots as we desire to do,” Evans told reporters on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association annual general meeting in Miami on June 7.
“If we went with a new aircraft type, I think there would be an element of replacement and growth added in as well.”
Qantas established three criteria that needed to be met before it would consider taking up any of its options and purchase rights for the 787-9, namely Qantas International’s return to sustainable profitability, repaying $1 billion of debt and establishing appropriate staff conditions to ensure the business case for the new aircraft type stacked up.
Safe said the agreement would have to be formally approved at the Fair Work Commission before commencing in mid-August.
The deal with long haul pilots comes after Qantas has managed to secured approval from unions representing engineers, ground staff and short-haul pilots, among others, for new enterprise agreements that included an 18-month pay freeze.
Jetstar has accepted 10 of its 11 787-8s on order, with the final airframe due to arrive by September.
Qantas was expected to report a full year net profit in the vicinity of $600 million when it released its 2014/15 financial results on August 20.