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Qantas chief Alan Joyce quits early, amid customer fury at the airline

  • Written by Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Embattled Qantas boss Alan Joyce will quit immediately, bringing forward his retirement by two months.

A Qantas statement early Tuesday said the CEO had advised the board he was doing this “to help the company accelerate its renewal[1]”.

Joyce has been under sustained attack over the airline’s poor service, high prices, and customers’ difficulty in retrieving flight credits. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched legal action against Qantas for continuing to sell tickets on flights already cancelled.

Last week Joyce was subjected to a ferocious grilling in the senate inquiry into the cost of living. Later in the week Qantas scrapped the expiry date for flight credits.

The spotlight on Qantas has intensified with the Albanese government’s refusal to let Qatar Airways have additional flights on the routes it requested – seen as a decision to protect Qantas, which lobbied against the extra flights. Some state Labor governments have urged the decision be reversed.

Qantas CEO-designate Vanessa Hudson will assume the role of Managing Director and Group CEO on Wednesday.

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.

He said he left Qantas, where he has been chief executive for 15 years, with a lot to be proud of.

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.

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.”

Goyder said the transition came at “a challenging time” for the airline and for 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,” Goyder said.

On Friday Qantas notified the ASX that Joyce had been given a total of $10.8 million in shares under a COVID retention scheme and for long-term bonuses from 2020-22, which he had deferred.

Recently Joyce sold a large packet of Qantas shares.


Late Tuesday, the Coalition succeeded in getting Senate support for an inquiry into the Qatar affair. The Greens opposed the move but other crossbenchers supported it.

Read more: What will putting the interests of Qantas ahead of Qatar Airways cost? $1 billion per year and a new wave of protectionism of legacy carriers[2]

Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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