Alan Joyce will step down as Qantas CEO two months early following a string of damaging headlines about the Flying Kangaroo.
Joyce, who has led Qantas since 2008, was originally to leave the role at the airline’s AGM in November, but will now hand over the reins to CFO Vanessa Hudson as of Wednesday 6 September. Qantas’ current Executive of Strategy, People and Technology, Rob Marcolina, will take over as CFO.
“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,” said Joyce in a statement.
“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 Chair Richard Goyder said Joyce’s exit shows he “has always had the best interests of Qantas front and centre”.
“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’s early exit comes amid a storm of controversy surrounding Australia’s largest airline group, with the ACCC last week taking the Flying Kangaroo to court over allegations it had sold more than 8,000 tickets to flights it had already cancelled, and calling for a $250 million fine.
In its response, Qantas admitted its reputation had suffered damage on “several fronts” and said it would address the watchdog’s claims fully in court.
“The period of time that the ACCC’s claims relate to, in mid-2022, was one of well-publicised upheaval and uncertainty across the aviation industry, as Qantas struggled to restart post-COVID. We openly acknowledge that our service standards fell well short, and we sincerely apologise. We have worked hard to fix them since, and that work continues.”
Qantas also late last month scrapped its controversial expiry date on COVID-19 flight credits, a move which followed revelations low-cost subsidiary Jetstar still held $100 million worth of unused credit.
The Flying Kangaroo posted a profit of around $2.5 billion in FY23, its first full-year profit since the pandemic.