Alan Joyce bails out of embattled Qantas early

Under-fire Qantas CEO Alan Joyce will step down tomorrow – two months earlier than scheduled – after an onslaught of bad publicity and threatened court action by the consumer watchdog for allegedly ripping off customers.

Sep 05, 2023, updated Sep 05, 2023

Qantas announced the move this morning in a release to the Australian Stock Exchange.

“Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce has advised the Board he will bring forward his retirement by two months to help the company accelerate its renewal,” the statement said.

“As a result, CEO Designate Vanessa Hudson will assume the role of Managing Director and Group CEO effective 6 September 2023.”

Joyce, who has helmed the national carrier since 2008, said he had decided to leave the post early so the airline could proceed with “renewal”.

“In the last few weeks, the focus on Qantas and events of the past make it clear to me that the company needs to move ahead with its renewal as a priority,” he said.

“The best thing I can do under these circumstances is to bring forward my retirement and hand over to Vanessa and the new management team now, knowing they will do an excellent job.

“There is a lot I am proud of over my 22 years at Qantas, including the past 15 years as CEO. There have been many ups and downs, and there is clearly much work still to be done, especially to make sure we always deliver for our customers. But I leave knowing that the company is fundamentally strong and has a bright future.”

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder said Joyce “has always had the best interests of Qantas front and centre, and today shows that”.

“On behalf of the Board, we sincerely thank him for his leadership through some enormous challenges and for thinking well-ahead on opportunities like ultra long-haul travel,” he said.

“This transition comes at what is obviously a challenging time for Qantas and its people. We have an important job to do in restoring the public’s confidence in the kind of company we are, and that’s what the Board is focused on, and what the management under Vanessa’s leadership will do.”

Joyce steps down amid a national focus on the embattled carrier, with calls for political inquiries, threats of Federal Court action and claims that Qantas is the most complained about company in Australia.

The Opposition yesterday called for a parliamentary inquiry into what it called a Qantas “protection racket”, after it emerged that Qantas lobbied the Albanese Government to block a Qatar Airways bid for 21 more Australian flights a week.

Joyce later announced a $2b profit for Qantas, amid rising complaints about poor service and high airfares.

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On Friday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it has launched Federal Court action against Qantas, alleging it sold tickets to as many as 8000 cancelled flights.

After the news broke, Qantas that afternoon announced it had scrapped an expiration date on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of travel credits set up in the wake of cancelled flights during the pandemic.

Qantas had almost $500m worth of credits and Jetstar nearly $100m, amid complaints about difficulty accessing them and that unclaimed credits would have been kept by the airlines when the previous deadline expired.

Joyce also came under fire after it was revealed last week he would pocket $10m in shares as a bonus for meeting goals including cost-cutting.

Qantas has told the ASX that shareholders will formally vote on the appointment of Vanessa Hudson as Managing Director at Qantas’ Annual General Meeting in November.

Today’s announcement means one of the executive changes announced in June this year will also be accelerated, namely the appointment of Rob Marcolina as the Group’s Chief Financial Officer in-line with current CFO, Vanessa Hudson’s, transition to the Group CEO role.

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