Air New Zealand reappoints long-term exec as CFO

written by Adam Thorn | November 12, 2020
Air New Zealand Air bus A321neo ZK-NNA takes off from Cairns Airport. (Andrew Belczacki)
Air New Zealand Air bus A321neo ZK-NNA takes off from Cairns Airport. (Andrew Belczacki)

Air New Zealand has appointed a former senior executive who spent 13 years at the airline as its new chief financial officer.

Richard Thomson held a variety of roles at the business between 2004 and 2017 and maintains a licence as a private pilot. He will replace Jeff McDowall in a “structured transition” early next year.

Richard Thomson
Richard Thomson will take up the position of CFO early next year (Air New Zealand)

Chief executive Greg Foran described Thomson as “exceptionally well respected” and said his knowledge of the market would be crucial when borders begin to open.

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He began his long career at the airline in 2004 and held roles including group general manager commercial, GM networks, GM commercial and CM corporate finance, where he had responsibility for the airline’s fleet and pricing.

Thomson is currently the CFO of Metlifecare and was involved in its acquisition by APVG. He’ll take over in a transition with outgoing chief finance officer Jeff McDowall, who will leave after he’s helped oversee a planned capital raise.

McDowall was also temporarily in charge of the business from the end of September 2019 until February 2020 following the exit of Christopher Luxon.

The departure came after Foran culled his most senior executive team from nine to six in May, and a month after chief commercial and customer officer Cam Wallace resigned after 19 years’ service.

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On Wednesday, Australian Aviation reported how union E tū said Air New Zealand workers were “incensed” after hearing that chief executive Greg Foran has been awarded around $2 million in shares.

“It’s rubbing salt into an already painful wound,” said the organisation’s head of aviation, Savage. “The announcement will further reinforce the view of union members that the company’s strategy needs a complete overhaul.”

Last Friday, the business reported to the stock exchange that Foran, who only took over in February, would be issued 1,369,077 rights convertible to shares. It comes despite the COVID crisis causing the airline to cut around 4,000 jobs, or around 30 per cent of the company, in an attempt to reduce the wage bill by $150 million.

“For the board and the executives to take the share options at this time will do nothing to rebuild the airline’s performance,” he said.

“Air New Zealand has drawn down on their government loan and it seems this public money is now being spent on lining the pockets of the senior management.

“The distribution of pay to staff needs to be fair, and the airline needs to retain and create decent jobs. Our national carrier should be something all Kiwis can be proud of, starting with looking after all its employees.”

Alongside Foran, six other members of the business’ top executive team were also issued rights, though thought to be less than the CEO.

In November, it emerged that 385 international cabin crew were to be made redundant in addition to 550 furloughed staff who have not worked since July.

The new set of cuts came after the business recorded an enormous statutory loss before tax of $575 million for the last financial year.

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