The legal battle between Qantas and Virgin over the ‘defecting’ head of Virgin’s loyalty program has finally ended after both parties agreed not to pursue the matter further.
Significantly, both sides involved in the tussle over Nick Rohrlach will pay their own costs, and neither will pay damages.
Qantas began legal action against Rohrlach’s move in March 2021 after the executive accepted a senior role at Qantas Frequent Flyer, before ultimately taking the top job at Velocity.
Rohrlach had planned to begin his role with Virgin Velocity in May 2021, but that was pushed back to September that year after a back-and-forth legal dispute resulted in a final victory for the national carrier.
Qantas initially argued in court that “highly sensitive” information had been shared with Rohrlach during his onboarding process at its own loyalty program, which the airline feared he would share with rival Virgin upon taking up his new position.
The case was heard in the Supreme Court of Singapore, where Qantas attempted to compel the court to legally enforce a six-month non-compete clause within his employment contract.
His start date was eventually delayed after Qantas won a last-minute injunction. The win was significant given the Flying Kangaroo lost two previous cases requesting to hold the full hearing in Australia rather than Singapore, whose courts traditionally favour employees.
Then in December 2021, a final decision saw Rohrlach fined $27,000 for apparently breaking the terms of that injunction by getting involved in Velocity business too early.
However, the news that both parties have agreed to walk away spells the end of the case.
Qantas said it was unfortunate it had to go to court to enforce “a fairly basic clause in a contract”.
“But the restraint period was effectively served through the process notwithstanding the fact Mr Rohrlach was found in contempt of court during that time,” it said.
Virgin said in response that “importantly, the settlement has the parties paying their own costs and no payment of any damages”.
The news comes weeks after Virgin Velocity made its most audacious attempt yet to encourage Qantas frequent flyers to transfer their accounts.
Its ‘Switch-a-Roo’ campaign followed similar poaching schemes in reverse by the national carrier.
The new scheme, now closed, allowed Qantas gold members to receive a three-month trial membership of Virgin’s equivalent membership tier.
“Virgin Australia is known for being playful, and the Switch-A-Roo campaign is a really great example of us putting our energetic spirit on show for well-travelled Australians who are looking to switch their loyalty to a modern and vibrant airline,” said Rohrlach.
The battle for frequent flyers has become particularly divisive after Virgin’s collapse into administration supposedly led to 25 corporate accounts switching to the Flying Kangaroo from Virgin.
Qantas took advantage by launching multiple switching programs targeting both Virgin and Air New Zealand customers in the aftermath.