The race to replace Alan Joyce as CEO of the Qantas Group has begun after the favourite to take the role, Stephanie Tully, formally began her new job as Jetstar chief executive.
Tully made her first public comments in the post on Thursday by announcing the budget carrier will launch flights between Sydney and Rarotonga in the Cook Islands from 29 June next year.
It came after Qantas announced in September that Gareth Evans would step down as Jetstar CEO to be replaced by the Flying Kangaroo’s then-chief customer officer. Previously, the business said a “formal handover” would take place in November, though no date was given.
Alan Joyce was appointed Qantas Group chief executive in November 2008 after a five-year spell in charge of Jetstar.
It’s long been rumoured he would depart in the next 18 months after he said in February last year that COVID would be his “last crisis” as CEO.
Last month, Qantas chairman Richard Goyder told the business’ AGM that Joyce would continue until “at least” the end of 2023, and a conversation on his exit wouldn’t happen until “sometime into next year”.
“The board’s very confident that Alan’s developed very capable executives and that we’ve got strong internal succession, and the board of course, will scan externally as well,” he said. “But the board feels very confident that we’re in good shape in terms of CEO succession as and when that is to occur.”
Joyce has won plaudits, and critics, for overseeing a remarkable recent turnaround that will see the company now target an underlying profit before tax of up to $1.45 billion – $140 million more than announced just weeks prior.
The result comes despite the wider group recording an underlying loss before tax of $1.86 billion in its last full-year results and claiming the pandemic cost its airlines $7 billion in total.
Stephanie Tully is widely regarded as the favourite to lead the whole business group post-Joyce, but will face a tricky task in keeping Jetstar competitive with rising fuel prices and the launch of low-cost rival Bonza.
The former Qantas chief customer officer was seemingly rewarded with the Jetstar promotion for navigating a tricky six months of performance issues.
In 2022, Qantas has faced a string of problems, including huge delays at Easter, hours-long call wait times, and even a revelation that the cabin crew of a Qantas A330 were made to sleep across seats in economy.
“Stephanie has worked across several different parts of the airline, from crewing to marketing, and has a deep understanding of customer experience,” said Joyce in September.
“She’s an outstanding leader, and she’ll be leading a very experienced senior team at Jetstar to keep building on the strengths of that business.”