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Air NZ must 'continue to lift our game', outgoing CEO says as big profit drop revealed

Air New Zealand's profit has dropped to a third of what it was last year. The company reported today a net profit after tax of $270 million, with an increase in fuel price and a slow in demand being blamed.

The airline's earnings before taxation for the 2019 financial year was $374 million, compared to $540 million last year. 

Chairman Tony Carter said he was "disappointed", but said the airline was operating in a different demand environment than a year ago.

The airline cited an increase in fuel price and operating costs in its statement about the earnings.

"When we first saw signs that demand was slowing, we took immediate steps to review our network, fleet and cost base, to position the airline for success in a lower growth environment," Mr Carter said. "While we have made progress, this work is still ongoing."

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Our political editor says it's very interesting Christopher Luxon has been named as a preferred PM in the 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll. Source: 1 NEWS

Chief executive officer Christopher Luxon, who is set to retire soon and has been the subject of widespread speculation over a future in politics, said the airline was navigating a more challenging demand environment while also delivering competitive fares.

"While the New Zealand market has seen foreign competitors reduce capacity or withdraw completely this year, we have continued to grow both domestically and internationally and to adjust our domestic fare structure to keep New Zealanders connected to each other and the world," he said in a statement. 

"In a society with rapidly changing customer expectations, we know we need to continue to lift our game."

Mr Luxon said the airline had invested in improving customer experience, including introducing free wi-fi aboard long-haul flights and announcing changes to economy class.

He also said, as the airline looks to the coming year, it is in a fundamentally strong position and will target further growth that taps into new pools of demand.

A small Air New Zealand plane. Source: istock.com