Thomas, who began as Virgin Australia group executive for airlines in September 2016, is leaving the company after less than a year in the role.
Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti confirmed Thomas’s departure in a statement on Friday, without offering reasons.
“I would like to thank John for his contribution to the business since he joined us last year,” Borghetti said in a statement.
“John has played an important role over the past 12 months in delivering on a number of initiatives including our new EconomyX product.”
Sharp has been appointed Virgin Australia acting group executive for airlines, effective immediately.
The veteran aviation executive, whose previous roles included head of strategy and innovation at Qantas, has been chief executive of Tigerair Australia since May 2013 and has overseen an improvement in the Virgin Australia-owned low-cost carrier’s (LCC) on-time performance and customer satisfaction amid network expansion.
Borghetti said Sharp had “overseen significant transformation and growth” at the Tigerair Australia LCC.
“Rob has a strong track record of success in executive roles and many years of experience in aviation. I am confident that Rob will deliver success as acting group executive for Virgin Australia Airlines,” Borghetti said.
Tigerair Australia executive manager flight operations Peter Wilson has become the LCC’s acting chief executive.
Prior to joining Virgin Australia, Thomas worked at consulting firm LEK where he was a managing director and partner and led its global aviation and travel practice for many years.
To that end, in 2008 Thomas was behind the introduction of checked baggage fees in the US, helping usher in the era of huge growth in so-called ancillary revenues.
At the time of his appointment, it was expected that Thomas’s day-to-day management of the airline would free up Borghetti to focus on establishing Virgin Australia’s’s operations in China and Hong Kong as part of its strategic commercial alliance with HNA Group.
Thomas’s arrival at Virgin Australia was also interpreted as part of the company’s succession planning.
There have also been fleet and network changes, including the planned start of Melbourne-Hong Kong nonstop flights on July 5 in partnership with HNA Group, the cancellation of proposed Perth-Abu Dhabi flights and the end of turboprop services in Queensland.
Virgin Australia has stated previously eight of its 14 ATR turboprops would be gone by the end of June, while all 18 Embraer E190 regional jets are due to be withdrawn by the end of calendar 2017.
Thomas told Australian Aviation the benefits of those “tough decisions” would begin to show in the next financial year.
“I think second half of FY18 will be when we will be over a lot of the transitional cost,” Thomas said on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Cancun, Mexico on June 4.
Those measures appear to have met with approval from the financial community, S&P Global Ratings lifting its ratings outlook for Virgin Australia to stable, from negative previously, on June 27 and reaffirming the company’s “B+” corporate credit rating.
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