Air New Zealand interim profit jumps to five-year high

Air New Zealand announced a 163 percent rise in interim net profit on Thursday, posting its best result in five years after the airline's long-haul operations moved back into the black.

The New Zealand flag carrier said net profit for the six months to December was NZ$100 million ($82.7 million), up from NZ$38 million in the same period a year earlier.

Chairman John Palmer said the result represented "excellent progress when put against the backdrop of a sluggish economic recovery and ongoing challenges facing the airline industry".

"This is the best interim profit result for five years," he added.

"The substantial change programme the airline has been implementing has positioned the business for consistent growth and sustainable profitability over the coming years."

He said Air New Zealand, which shed more than 500 jobs as part of a restructure in 2012, expected full-year earnings to "comfortably exceed" last year's, when the airline reported an annual profit of NZ$71 million.

The airline said demand had increased on domestic routes, its cargo operation lifted revenues nine percent and its long-haul network had turned a profit for the first time since the onset of the global financial crisis.

Palmer said the company was backing its confident predictions by leasing two additional Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to join the fleet in 2014.

The announcement was made before trading opened on the New Zealand stock exchange, where Air New Zealand shares last traded at NZ$1.345.