Air New Zealand to slash staff after profit drop

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Air New Zealand plans to cut hundreds of jobs after a 71 percent drop in its half-year profit.

New Zealand's national carrier announced Friday it plans to reduce its work force by 441 people — 175 through layoffs and the rest through attrition. The airline has a staff of 11,500.

The airline said its profit before tax for the six months ending Dec. 2011 was down more than two-thirds to 33 million New Zealand dollars ($27.5 million).

In a statement, the airline blamed a weak global economy and the high cost of jet fuel for the result, but said it's overall position remains strong and it will keep paying shareholders a dividend.

The company's chief executive, Rob Fyfe, announced last month he will retire effective December to pursue other opportunities.

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