Backing calls for a second airport ... Qantas chief, Alan Joyce.

Backing calls for a second airport ... Qantas chief, Alan Joyce. Photo: AFP

THE Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, wanted to make a few things clear on the industrial relations front. He has no doubt that grounding the airline in the face of industrial action last October was the correct decision, and that the Qantas brand has recovered.

But also, he told a business lunch in Sydney yesterday, investment in infrastructure and technology were bigger drivers of productivity than industrial relations.

Australian politicians had talked about a second Sydney airport for 40 years, whereas the Chinese government would build 45 new airports within the next five years, he said. The congestion and limitations of Sydney Airport, and the economic and jobs benefits that would come from a second airport meant it was ''critical'' for government to act now. He backed either Badgerys Creek or Wilton as the site, and said there were geographical and other infrastructure limitations in pursuing Richmond.

On the technology front, Qantas was investing $2 billion a year in new aircraft, which were more fuel efficient, and had lower maintenance costs. The A380 produced 50 per cent less noise than a Boeing 747, and the A320 Neo was 75 per cent quieter. And given the airline has just spent $280 million refitting nine of its 747s - much of it going on its new Panasonic inflight entertainment system - he expected it may well be the iPad that in three to four years replaced such expensive systems.

He remained critical of the scope of the Fair Work Act, and the removal of the ''prohibited content'' list that existed under the Howard government's Work Choices legislation.

Mr Joyce spoke warmly of the professionalism of pilots, cabin crew, ground staff and engineers in dealing with the 2010 midair engine explosion on its A380 Nancy Bird Walton. The plane has just returned to the air, some $139 million and more than 100,000 man hours later.

''You realise that while we have our differences and fights we all have one thing in common, we are proud of Qantas, we want a successful Qantas that is around for the next 100 years, and we need to tap into that passion,'' he said.