Former Qantas executive general manager John Borghetti has been appointed the new CEO of Virgin Blue effective May 8, succeeding the retiring Brett Godfrey.
“We are delighted to have John join us,” Virgin Blue Holdings Limited chairman Neil Chatfield said in a March 2 statement. “He is a highly regarded executive with deep aviation experience and insights, proven strategic capabilities, and strong marketing credentials. Nobody knows the market better and he is passionate about the aviation business.”
The highly respected Borghetti, 54, left Qantas in May 2008 after he was passed over for the Qantas CEO role in preference to Alan Joyce. His 36 year career saw him work in a range of commercial, sales and marketing positions, culminating in six years as executive general manager Qantas, in charge of network operations, scheduling and pricing, sales and marketing, crew, customer service, product and brand.
“It’s a great business with a great team and great culture – you can feel the energy in the people and the brand,” Borghetti said in a statement. “The company is in good shape and is exceptionally well placed to build on its strengths and embrace revenue growth opportunities ahead. I look forward to working with the team to create an even more competitive environment for air travellers – domestic and international.”
Observers suggest the biggest challenge for Borghetti will be to grow the airline’s yield premium while ensuring its cost base continues to be contained, otherwise it will lose its key competitive advantage. It is expected that with his expertise that Virgin Blue will further its attack against Qantas and grow the middle ground between Jetstar and the top end of the premium market that Qantas currently dominates.
Borghetti was appointed after the VB board conducted a global search for a successor to Godfrey, with “the leading candidate internally,” Chatfield told a March 2 press conference, likely to be CFO Keith Neate, having “signalled to me early on he didn’t want to take the role”.
Godfrey, who will spend time over the coming weeks introducing Borghetti to Virgin Blue staff and investors, will finish up as CEO on May 7. Said Borghetti of his predecessor, “Brett’s left some pretty big shoes to fill, Brett has done an outstanding job.”
With his move to Virgin Blue, Borghetti will step down from his current directorships of Piper Aircraft and Investec Global Aircraft Fund.