Can Qantas Come Back from all of This Controversy?

Can Qantas Come Back from all of This Controversy?
Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

It’s a serious question to ask: Can Australian carrier Qantas come back from all of this controversy that has damaged their reputation over the last few weeks?

From concerns over payment to outgoing CEO Alan Joyce, to a Chairman fighting off calls to resign and more, a lot is going on at the carrier.

Without further ado, let’s get into it…

The Alan Joyce Equation: Significant Damage for Qantas?

Can Qantas Come Back from all of This Controversy?
Jetstar Airways, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For outgoing CEO Alan Joyce, he has not had a good time of things, with elements rattling on through the Senate inquiry about Qantas’ direction to flight cancellations, COVID-19 travel credits and more.

Joyce was issued with a summons to appear at the Senate inquiry, which was focused on Australian cost of living matters.

Also appearing before the committee with Mr Joyce were Jetstar CEO Stephanie Tully and Qantas Group executive for corporate affairs Andrew McGinnes.

With Mr Joyce facing questions which went on for just over one and half hours, the temperature in the room grew a little heated, with Joyce asking senators to stop interrupting him and to allow him to answer their questions.

Australian senators pointed out they were stopping the CEO because he was not directly answering questions posed to him.

The deputy chair of the select committee, Greens party Senator Penny Allman-Payne raised the question of whether Mr Joyce had discussed the matter of Qatar’s proposal to increase flights to Australia with Prime Minister Albanese or Transport Minister King.

Mr Joyce declined to answer the question, saying that he would never divulge any discussion he has had with any Australian Prime Minister.

The Qantas Windfall Profit Under Joyce:

Senate committee hearings followed closely after the Qantas Group disclosed its first full year profit since the beginning of the pandemic.

Last week, Qantas Group disclosed its first full year statutory profit since FY19. For FY23, the Group achieved an Underlying Profit Before Tax of $2.47 billion and a Statutory After Tax Profit of $1.74 billion.

This compares with $7 billion in accumulated statutory losses over three prior years.

News of the windfall profit was not received well in all quarters, with some Australians saying the bumper profit has come at the expense of the airline’s customers.


Not long after that as well as questions from the ACCC and a subsequent fine of $250m to the Australian carrier, it was announced that Joyce’s departure would be a lot earlier than planned.

Over Half of Joyce’s Profits to be Clawed Back…
Can Qantas Come Back from all of This Controversy?
Jetstar Airways, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Qantas Group issued a statement following the release of the Group’s FY23 financial report.

The Report reveals that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce was paid $21.4 million over the last financial year, causing a lot of controversy with the public.

Notably, Chairman Goyder discloses that more than half of this payment could be subject to a clawback by the Board if significant misconduct is proven.

One of the primary factors contributing to the erosion of trust in the Qantas Group has been the allegations made by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), causing controversy within the Group.

These allegations have become a focal point of concern, and Qantas has been fully cooperative with the ACCC’s investigations.

The gravity of these allegations became apparent when legal action was officially announced on August 31 of this year.

The specifics of these allegations are still unfolding, and Qantas is currently constrained in its ability to provide detailed responses due to the ongoing legal process.

However, it is important to note that Qantas has a longstanding practice of offering customers an alternative flight or a refund when a flight is cancelled.

The FY23 financial report also sheds light on executive remuneration within the Qantas Group.

The scorecard used to determine short-term incentive payments incorporates various financial and non-financial metrics, including safety, customer satisfaction, and emissions reduction.

However, the report reveals that customer satisfaction levels, while showing improvement, still fall short of the desired benchmarks.

Consequently, this aspect of the scorecard was evaluated at zero out of a possible 20%, leading to a corresponding reduction in senior executive pay.

Can The Australian Carrier Get Through This?

Photo Credit: James Field/AviationSource

With Qantas facing at least three lawsuits, it does appear to be the case that they have their backs against the wall, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

However, if you look away from the controversy that has occurred, Qantas is a staple brand to Australia, and for it to go down as a result of this seems unlikely.

Repairing relationships and trust with its customers is a major priority, and will take a number of years no doubt to get through this stage.

But with a rich and long-standing history, and having gone through multiple external events too, this is a storm that can be weathered by the Australian carrier. But only if they do it in the right way.

With contributions from Len Varley.

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