Joyce reads the room and retires early

Joyce reads the room and retires early

Outgoing Qantas CEO Alan Joyce (photo via Facebook)

After a whirlwind of negative press in recent weeks, Qantas Airways (ASX: QAN) CEO Alan Joyce has decided to hand in his wings earlier than expected, leading the way for Vanessa Hudson to step into the top job at Australia’s biggest airline two months ahead of schedule.

Qantas says the decision to resign early was made by Joyce who has advised the board his desire to bring forward his planned November retirement to become effective from the end of today.

Vanessa Hudson, the first woman to lead the airline, will assume the role of Qantas CEO from tomorrow.

“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,” Joyce says. 

“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.”

Joyce, who has overseen record profits and record losses in his time as Qantas CEO, has come under particularly intense public scrutiny over the past month.

Joyce has never been far from the headlines, courting controversy from his decision in 2020 to outsource nearly 2,000 ground-handling jobs ahead of collective bargaining negotiations with unions, to an appearance last month before a Senate committee on the cost of living where he had to defend high airfares, record profits and his multimillion-dollar salary package.

The polarising nature of Joyce’s tenure has been amplified more recently by the CEO’s relationship with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the government’s decision to deny Qatar Airways permission to fly an extra 21 flights per week into Australia.

The ACCC added to the company’s negative press after launching legal action over claims that the airline knowingly disrupted the travel plans of thousands of passengers in 2022 after selling tickets for flights it had already cancelled.

However, Qantas chairman Richard Goyder says Joyce ‘has always had the best interests of Qantas front and centre’, adding that his resignation today ‘shows that’.

“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,” Goyder says. 

“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.”

Shareholders will formally vote on Hudson’s appointment the Qantas AGM in November.

Qantas says the change at the top also brings forward other senior management appointments announced in June, namely the appointment of Rob Marcolina as the CFO to replace Hudson.

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