SYDNEY - Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce on Tuesday defended the airline after it was forced to divert or turn around three planes in one day, saying its record was better than most.
Three Qantas flights made unscheduled landings on Monday, including an A380 that was put into a controlled descent and requested a priority landing in Perth after its air-conditioning system malfunctioned.
Joyce said the reality was that "thousands upon thousands" of turn-backs happened to airlines each year and Qantas experienced far fewer than the industry as a whole.
"We are very confident in Qantas' reliability," he told reporters in Brisbane.
"We have really low levels of turn-backs compared to most of the world fleets."
Joyce said on the Boeing 737, one of the planes involved in Monday's incidents, the industry average was one turn-back for every 9,000 sectors whereas for Qantas it was one turn-back for every 18,000 sectors travelled.
The three incidents included a flight to Dallas that returned to Sydney late Monday after four hours in the air due to a technical issue that affected seat power, the in-flight entertainment system and some of the toilets.
"While the aircraft could have continued flying safely to Dallas, the decision was made to return to Sydney in the interests of passenger comfort on what is a long flight," a Qantas statement said.
The Sydney to Dallas route, among the world's longest non-stop commercial flights, typically takes around 15 hours.
The aircraft was the second of Qantas' A380s to experience a problem on Monday.
Another of the superjumbo passenger jets, flying from Dubai to Sydney, was diverted to Perth due to a fault with the cabin air system while over the Indian Ocean.
As a precaution, the captain descended from 39,000 feet (12,000 m) to 10,000 feet in just five minutes, and requested a priority landing in Perth before touching down safely.
"It's standard procedure to descend quickly in these circumstances and at no stage was the safety of the aircraft or passengers at risk," Qantas' head of flying operations Mike Galvin said in another statement.
The third incident involving the 737 saw a flight from the Western Australian capital Perth to the mining hub of Karratha turn back after an unusual odour was detected.
Australian and International Pilots Association president Nathan Safe said he was confident the incidents were unrelated.
"Generally, aeroplanes are built tough enough and with enough redundancies and all that kind of stuff that you do have some time to assess the situation," Safe told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The incidents came on the same day that the embattled airline announced it was on the way to an underlying half-year profit of up to Aus$350 million (S$380 million) after a major shake-up to stem losses that has seen thousands made jobless.