Qantas long-haul pilots have backed plans for an 18-month pay freeze, putting the airline a step closer to expanding its fleet of hi-tech Dreamliner planes.
The pay freeze was part of a new wages deal which was backed by 82 per cent of 1,165 pilots who voted in an electronic ballot that closed on Thursday.
The deal includes annual three per cent pay increases once the pay freeze lifts.
The airline’s ability to strike new pay deals and wage freezes with its staff is understood to be a key factor behind whether Qantas decides to buy a fleet of 787-9 Dreamliners later this year.
“The new agreement helps build the case for future investment in new aircraft for Qantas International,” a Qantas spokesman said in a statement.
Qantas has been keen to buy the Dreamliners, which cost around $US264 million ($A361.87 million) each and are 20 per cent more fuel efficient than others used on long-haul routes.
The airline has options and purchase rights with Boeing for 50 of the 787-9 aircraft.
Its budget airline Jetstar already has 11 of the slightly smaller 787-8 Dreamliners.
Qantas has been urging all employees to accept an 18-month pay freeze after undertaking a major restructure that included 5,000 jobs being axed and $2 billion worth of cost cuts in an attempt to return the struggling airline to profit.
So far, more than 7,000 staff including short-haul pilots as well as airport, catering and freight employees have backed wage freezes as part of new pay deals.
Qantas announced in early July plans to pay up to $90 million in bonuses to staff who agreed to new wage deals.
If the Fair Work Commission approves the airline’s latest pay agreement, its 1,300 long-haul pilots will be eligible to receive the one-off bonuses.
Qantas chief pilot Dick Tobiano said the new wage deal was good news for the airline and its pilots.
“As we have said along the way, there are several things that we need to build a strong business case for new aircraft coming into Qantas International,” he said.
“This agreement is a significant part of that.”
Qantas is expected in August to report an almost $1 billion pre-tax profit for the 2014/15 financial year, a huge turnaround from its record $646 million underlying loss in the prior year.