Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon has resigned and will leave the company in September after seven years at the helm.
The airline announced Luxon’s decision to step down in a statement on Wednesday afternoon. Air New Zealand chairman Tony Carter said the board had commenced an international search for a new chief executive.
Carter praised Luxon’s stewardship of the airline during his time as chief executive, noting the return to profitability, strong dividends and outstanding customer satisfaction, among other achievements.
Luxon departure means Air New Zealand will have a new chief executive and a new chairman following its annual shareholder meeting on September 25, given Carter was also stepping down as chairman at that time.
“Christopher will be in the role until 25 September, and then he will move to advising and supporting the incoming Chairman and new CEO so we have a seamless transition and are set up well for further success,” Carter said.
Carter’s announced in July 2018 this would be his last year as a director, with Dame Therese Walsh to replace him as chairman. It will be the first time Air New Zealand will have a female chairman.
Luxon joined Air New Zealand as general manager for its international operations in May 2011. He was then named chief executive designate in June 2012 and formally replaced Rob Fyfe in January 2013.
He previously spent 18 years at Unilever and was its Canada chief executive before going to Air New Zealand.
During the past seven years, the 48-year-old has restructured the airline’s network, including a significant expansion into the Americas, Asia and Australia, introduced new products and forged alliances and partnerships with a number of carriers across the Asia Pacific. Those efforts, among others, have yielded consistent profits.
The expansion into Australia was part of efforts to establish Auckland as an attractive hub for travellers heading to North and South America.
Air New Zealand also boosted its trans-Tasman network through becoming a shareholder in Virgin Australia and forging a revenue-sharing joint-venture on trans-Tasman routes.
Luxon, was was named the Deloitte Top 200 chief executive of the year in 2015, described the job as “intellectually challenging, people centred and an absolute privilege”.
“However, I do feel it is the right time for a new leader to take over and preserve and enhance the good things from our past, but also to put their own stamp on the organisation bringing their own personality and emphasis to the role as I did,” Luxon said.
“I will miss the friendship and support of all those with whom I have worked with and served.”
Luxon said his current focus was on finishing strongly at the company he has led for seven years before taking some time to “refresh and recharge, and then reflect” on what was next.
“I am now 48 years old and my wife Amanda and I are at an interesting time in life. Our children will both have finished high school and so we will have a new degree of freedom, including career choices,” Luxon said.
“Thus, I would like to think more about how I can best use my skills, abilities and experience to make a further contribution to the success of New Zealand whether that be through corporate life, politics or a not for profit.”
The airline was recently recognised with an International Air Transport Association (IATA) diversity and inclusion award.
In May 2019, Luxon denied reports he was planning a move into politics as a candidate for New Zealand’s National party and remained committed to the airline.
He is currently chairman of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s business advisory council.