Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has defended the carrier's grounding of its fleet last year in the face of escalating strike action.

Joyce said the decision "though difficult, was necessary" in order to bring the dispute to a head.

He said: "Our decision to ground the fleet was made necessary because our customers were being massively disrupted by the unions and the ongoing campaigns were damaging our brand.

"It was impossible to deliver our schedule and the business community was starting to leave Qantas."

Despite the disruption to passengers caused by the grounding, the airline has since seen a "positive response in forward bookings" and an "upswell of support" from its customers.

The dispute cost the carrier around Australian dollar 194 million ($208 million) in the six months ending 31 December.

The airline grounded its fleet at 17:00 local time on 29 October 2011, in protest at strike action from the Transport Workers Union, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association and the Australian and International Pilots Association. It resumed flights on 31 October.

Source: Flight International