In a significant development for Australia's flagship carrier, Qantas Airways, CEO Alan Joyce will be stepping down two months earlier than initially planned. This decision comes in the wake of a reputational crisis facing the airline. Vanessa Hudson, the CEO Designate and the first woman to lead the century-old airline, will assume her role on Wednesday.
The move to expedite Joyce's retirement follows a recent apology from Qantas for falling short of service standards and acknowledging the damage to its reputation. This comes less than two weeks after the airline reported record annual earnings, largely driven by robust travel demand.
Qantas has recently faced legal troubles, with Australia's competition regulator suing the airline for allegedly selling tickets for over 8,000 cancelled flights between May and July 2022 without disclosing the cancellations. Additionally, public and political scrutiny mounted when the airline initially allowed nearly A$500 million ($323 million) in pandemic-era flight credits to expire by year-end, a decision it later reversed following the regulator's lawsuit.
The airline's controversies, including the granting of a premium airport lounge membership to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's son and its opposition to Qatar Airways adding more flights to Australia, have dominated headlines and editorials in the country in recent times.
Qantas' share price has also suffered, declining by 13% since the beginning of August. Questions have arisen regarding whether the airline prioritized short-term profit over its long-term reputation with customers.
Alan Joyce, who served as Qantas' CEO for 15 years, expressed the need for the company to prioritize its renewal. Chairman Richard Goyder acknowledged that this executive transition is occurring during a challenging period for the airline and its employees. Goyder emphasized the importance of restoring public confidence in Qantas' identity.
Back in June, Qantas had announced various leadership changes aimed at enhancing focus on key areas as the airline continues its post-pandemic recovery. The appointment of Rob Marcolina as the new Chief Financial Officer will also begin early, alongside Vanessa Hudson.