Qantas Group plans to become the world’s first airline to reuse, recycle and compost at least three-quarters of its general waste by the end of 2021.

The initiative emerged as the Australian flag carrier reported an A$19 million decline in first half profits to A$780 million.

The result over the same period the previous year came in the face of fuel costs rising by 27% or A$416 million to A$2 billion.

International profits slumped by 60% to A$90 million, largely due to a “rapid rise” in the cost of fuel.

An ambition to start non-stop flights from the east coast of Australia to New York and London by 2022, under a scheme called ‘Project Sunrise’, remains on-track.

The Qantas international division took delivery of three Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners in the half with a further six arriving in 2020 to take the total fleet to 14.

This is enabling accelerated retirement of Boeing 747s in the next two years.

Qantas recently decided not to take eight additional Airbus A380 superjumbos that were ordered in 2006.

“These aircraft have not been part of the airline’s fleet and network plans for some time,” the carrier said. “Qantas remains committed to a major upgrade of its existing A380s, which begins in mid-calendar 2019.”

The carrier is targeting the removal of 100 million single use plastic items a year and will replace 45 million plastic cups, 30 million cutlery sets, 21 million coffee cups and four million headrest covers with sustainable alternatives by the end of 2020.

“This list of items goes well beyond the recent European Union ban, both in scope and speed of implementation,” Qantas said.

CEO Alan Joyce said: “In the process of carrying 50 million people each year, we deal with more than 30,000 tonnes of waste. That’s the same weight as about eighty 747 jumbos.

“It is quite literally a waste and we have a responsibility to our customers, shareholders and the community to reduce it.

“We’ve already removed plastic wrapping on our pyjamas and headsets, as well as plastic straws.

“Even plastic frequent flyer cards are going digital. It adds up to millions of items a year because of our scale and there’s a lot more we can do.”

Reflecting on the half year results, he said: “Higher oil prices were a significant headwind and we moved quickly to recover as much of the cost as we could. That’s easier to achieve in the domestic market than on longer international routes, where fuel is a much bigger factor, and that’s reflected in the segment results we’re reporting today.

“We also saw an increase in selling costs, simply due to the commissions associated with the 6% rise in revenue, as well as costs linked to a weaker Australian dollar.

“Looking ahead, we’re seeing strong forward bookings. Competitor capacity growth has slowed internationally and is relatively flat domestically. And oil prices have declined from the peaks we saw late last year.

“These factors point to a strong second half and we expect to completely recover our increased fuel costs by the end of this financial year.

“We are mindful of potential signs of weakness in the broader economy and we’re always adjusting capacity to meet demand in individual markets – but overall revenue and yield indicators remain positive.

“Above all, the resilience we’ve built into the business gives us plenty of confidence about our performance going forward.”