Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has given his biggest hint yet that he will continue on in the top job despite speculation he is set to stand down within 18 months.
In a candid interview with the SMH’s Peter FitzSimons on Sunday, Joyce emphasised that he previously only said he would remain in the role until “at least” the end of next year, and hadn’t decided on an exit date.
“I’ll sit down with the chairman next year and make a call about what that timeframe is,” he said. “So nothing has changed on that period. It’s still at least the end of next year.”
It comes amid speculation as to when, or if, Joyce will leave and who will replace him.
Earlier this month, Australian Aviation revealed how the favourite to take the role, Stephanie Tully, had formally began her new job as Jetstar chief executive.
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-19 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 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.”