Embattled Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announces early departure

Qantas Group Head Office building in Mascot, Sydney.
Kgbo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Embattled Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce is set to leave the key role with the Australian national carrier, not under the bright Aussie sunshine but underneath a gathering storm cloud.

15 years with Alan Joyce at the reins has seen the iconic Flying Kangaroo brand suffer some severe body blows to its image and credibility.

As it now stands, Qantas group faces three separate legal actions – from its workers, its customers and from the consumer watchdog ACCC.

Australians are ferociously proud of their national icons, and the Flying Kangaroo stands as one of them; having endeared itself to generations of Aussies. The disappointment and frustration expressed by members of the Australian public has been palpable.

On top of court actions by disgruntled employees in a class action by customers, the latest incendiary bombshell was last week’s announcement of a landmark action by the Australian consumer watchdog ACCC over allegations the Group deliberately sold tickets on thousands of cancelled flights.

This topped off a horror week for Joyce and the Qantas Group, which began with a grilling at a Senate inquiry which saw heated exchanges between Joyce and Australian senators. It ended with the news of the ACCC calling for a record $250 million fine for the airline Group.

New Qantas Group livery showing Indigenous Voice to Parliament support.
Photo Credit: Qantas

Retirement brought forward


Mr Joyce has now advised the Board he will bring forward his retirement by two months to help the company accelerate its renewal.

As a result, CEO Designate Vanessa Hudson will assume the role of Managing Director and Group CEO effective 6 September 2023.

In a statement issued today by Qantas, CEO Alan Joyce said: “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.

“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,” Mr Joyce said.

Chairman statement


Qantas Chairman Richard Goyder said: “Alan has always had the best interests of Qantas front and centre, and 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.

“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,” added Mr Goyder.

In conclusion


If the ongoing legal actions involving workers and customers was bad enough, then last week’s events which culminated in a landmark action by the ACCC really make Alan Joyce’s tenure in the top job until his planned departure in November unsustainable.

Whilst the focus has been largely on Joyce, broader questions are now being raised with regards to inaction by the Qantas board, and just how much they knew with respect to the ticketing scandal.

They say a fish rots from the head, and the situation that is currently playing out with Qantas probably stands as a testament to that notion.

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