The Australian flag carrier blamed the figures on falling customer demand and said it was also scrapping dividend payments.
Chief executive, Alan Joyce, said: “Maintaining a first class offering on flagship routes is essential for Qantas as a premium airline. It is vital that we align this offering with forecast demand which is expected to be relatively slow compared to business, premium economy and economy.”
First class would only be kept on flights from Australia to London, via Singapore, and between Australia and Los Angeles after demand fell dramatically due to the downturn.
He said: “Our first class product will remain on key routes. It’s a re-balance - there are more business class seats and less first class seats.”
“The reconfiguration is driven by the longer-term trend of what we believe is happening in demand.”
“The long-term trend in first class has been for a decline. Our seat factor [load] in first class has been below 40 percent, so we have plenty of room to cope with all expected future demand,” he added.
Qantas will reconfigure 29 planes and upgrade in-flight entertainment at a cost of AU$400m (£229m), leaving first class on just 12 Airbus A380s.
The premium cuts come in the same week as new data from the International Air Travel Association (IATA) painted a gloomy long-term picture for the sector. It cautioned that even though premium travel has risen 11 per cent since a May 2009 low, levels in December 2009 were still 17 per cent below highs recorded in early 2008.
Qantas’ net income for the six months to 31 December 2009 slumped to A$58m or £33m, down 72 percent from A$210m year-on-year.
However Joyce said he was pleased the airline had remained in profit during the downturn, unlike other carriers.
He said: “While the operating environment has been unprecedented and challenging, this result reflects the strength and diversity of our operations.”
Qantas partly blamed weaker demand for the fall in profit, which came despite sharply lower fuel costs and an efficiency drive that pared operating expenses by 11 percent.
QANTAS has announced it is axing first class from all but a handful of routes in a major overhaul as half-year profits slumped.
Chief Executive Alan Joyce said passengers would only be able to fly first class between Australia and London, via Singapore, and Los Angeles after demand dropped dramatically in the wake of the global financial crisis.
"Our first class product will remain on key routes," Mr Joyce said.
"It's a re-balance - there are more business class seats and less first class seats."
The flag-carrier will reconfigure 29 aircraft and upgrade its in-flight entertainment at a cost of $400 million, leaving first class on just 12 Airbus A380s.
"While some travel markets are recovering from the economic crisis, our assessment of longer term travel trends, which pre-dates the economic crisis, shows that international premium travel demand is changing,'' Mr Joyce said.
"Just as Qantas was quick to respond to the downturn, we are now ensuring we are best placed to take advantage of the recovery and continue to invest in fleet, product and service.''
Meanwhile Mr Joyce said it is inevitable airfares will rise this year "from unprecedented low levels".
He said current airfares rates are "understandable"
"I think we have had unprecedented low airfares out there because of the economic condition and the level of capacity that's there."
"I think airfares and yields are improving, they have to improve going forward in the international markets because most of the international industry is losing money."
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates airlines will lose $US5.6 billion ($6.22 billion) in 2010, although this would be an improvement from an estimated $US11 billion ($12.23 billion) in losses in 2009.
"That's not suitable on these average airfares so we know they have to increase," Mr Joyce said.
Mr Joyce said the operating environment still remained tough for the aviation industry.
He said Qantas's major international markets such as the US and UK remained weak, but its domestic operations were improving.
"We did see some weakness in some of our international markets but currently the first half of this financial year is a lot better than the second half of last financial year, so the trend is going in the right direction," Mr Joyce said.
Earlier today Qantas reported a 72 per cent slump in first half profit and scrapped its interim dividend.
The national carrier's net profit declined to $58 million in the six months ended December 31, from $210 million in the previous corresponding period.