Qantas has begun interviewing executives to replace long-standing CEO Alan Joyce, according to a new report.
The AFR said the meetings took place earlier this week, and a final decision was now expected before the end of next month.
The revelation – which Qantas declined to comment on – comes amid speculation as to who will win the Plane of Thrones battle to take the top prize in Australian aviation.
Key figures in the frame could include the upcoming head of Project Sunrise, Cameron Wallace, new Jetstar CEO Stephanie Tully and Qantas CFO Vanessa Hudson.
Former Jetstar CEO and current Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka also remains a dark horse in the race to replace Joyce.
Alan Joyce was appointed Qantas Group chief executive in November 2008 after five years in charge of Jetstar.
It’s long been rumoured he would depart in the next 12 months after he said in February 2021 that COVID-19 would be his “last crisis” as CEO.
Qantas chairman Richard Goyder told the business’ AGM last year 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 saw the business record a half-year profit before tax of 1.428 billion on the back of better-than-expected demand for flying post-COVID.
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.
In February, a new challenger emerged in Qantas’ succession plans when the airline hired one of Air New Zealand’s most senior former executives to take charge of Project Sunrise.
A restructure of top positions means Cameron Wallace will in July be appointed as the new head of the Flying Kangaroo’s international operation, with current executive Andrew David departing later this year.
Project Sunrise is the code name for Qantas’s plan to fly non-stop from London and New York to the east coast of Australia using a new fleet of 12 specially-adapted A350-1000s. Its launch will be one of the most significant moments in the airline’s history.
In February, Qantas surprisingly revealed David, who is CEO of Qantas domestic and international, will retire in September.
His role will then split into two in July, with Wallace overseeing international only and David taking charge of the domestic arm until his departure in September. A new CEO of domestic will then be appointed by Qantas.