Qantas Group (ASX: QAN) CEO Alan Joyce will be replaced by the company’s current chief financial officer Vanessa Hudson, who will be promoted into the role when the outgoing boss retires in November.
Having worked for Qantas for more than 28 years including previously as chief customer officer and senior vice president across the Americas and New Zealand, Hudson will become the airline's 13th CEO after the 2023 annual general meeting (AGM).
Chairman Richard Goyder said the appointment followed a ‘rigorous selection process’ and allowed for a smooth leadership transition from current CEO Joyce who has been in the top job for 15 years.
“A lot of thought has gone into this succession and the board had a number of high-quality candidates to consider, both internally and externally,” Goyder said.
“Vanessa has a deep understanding of this business after almost three decades in a range of roles both onshore and offshore, across commercial, customer and finance. She has a huge amount of airline experience and she’s an outstanding leader.
“For the past five years Vanessa has had a direct hand in shaping our strategy as a member of the group management committee, and her handling of the finance and treasury portfolio during the COVID crisis was outstanding. She also led the fleet selection process in 2022 for the renewal of our domestic jet aircraft over the next decade.”
Hudson said it was an ‘absolute honour’ to be named the company’s next CEO.
“This is an exceptional company full of incredibly talented people and it’s very well positioned for the future,” Hudson said.
“My focus will be delivering for those we rely on and who rely on us – our customers, our employees, our shareholders and the communities we serve.”
Goyder also paid tribute to Joyce’s 15 years of leadership, with the Ireland-born businessman having led the airline since 2008 after previously working in the role of CEO of subsidiary Jetstar Airways from 2003.
“This transition is happening at a time when the Qantas Group is extremely well positioned,” Goyder said.
“We have a clear strategy, a strong balance sheet and record profitability that supports a pipeline of investment for customers, opportunities for our people and returns to shareholders.
“Much of the credit for the bright future in front of Qantas goes to Alan. He’s faced more than his fair share of challenges as CEO and he’s managed them exceptionally well – from the GFC, to record oil prices, to intense competitive pressures and the COVID crisis.”
Joyce said there was still work to be done in his final six months as CEO of the nation’s leading airline.
“At the Board’s request, I extended my time as CEO to see through the COVID recovery plan, so now that we’re on the other side of that crisis it’s a logical time for me to step down,” Joyce said.
“There’s still a lot I want to deliver in the next six months and at the top of that list is ensuring a smooth handover to Vanessa, who I’m sure will excel in the role.”
For Hudson, the road to CEO has been a lengthy one, having joined the airline in 1994 - 28 years ago.
In her various roles, the current CFO was responsible for a variety of segments including sales channels, revenue management, network planning, catering and airports.
She was appointed to the role of chief customer officer in 2018 and one year later became the group’s CFO - a position she held during the COVID-19 pandemic period.
For the airline, the change comes after Qantas returned to profit following three years and $7 billion in statutory losses due to the pandemic’s impact on the aviation industry.
In February, the company announced it achieved a $1 billion statutory profit after tax for the first half. At the time, Joyce labelled the recovery a “huge turnaround considering the massive losses we were facing just 12 months ago”.
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