Qantas’ chief operating officer, Paul Jones, has left the airline after just three months in his current role to join Virgin as chief customer and digital officer.
His defection will be seen as another early victory for new Virgin chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka after she secured a deal with four unions over working terms last week.
Jones’ departure is effective immediately and he is likely to see out a non-compete clause before he can join Virgin. In total, Jones has worked for Qantas since 2011 in a variety of customer and operation roles.
The AFR has speculated that it was Jones who oversaw the process surrounding Qantas’ controversial outsourcing of ground handling – however, the decision to propose losing the in-house employees was taken in August, before he became COO.
That decision is soon to be subject to a Federal Court case led by the lawyer who helped win the infamous Waterfront dispute.
The new appointment at Virgin is the latest change after Paul Scurrah apparently resigned as chief executive and nine directors left including chairperson Elizabeth Bryan before Bain formally became the new owner of the business.
Since the handover, Hrdlicka has repeatedly doubled-down on the reborn business’ plans to become a mid-market ‘hybrid’ and not a budget airline.
“Australia already has a low-cost carrier and a traditional full-service airline, and we won’t be either,” said Hrdlicka on her first day. “Virgin Australia will be a mid-market carrier appealing to customers who are after a great value airfare and better service.
“The travel environment is changing and so are our customers’ preferences. We know that leisure travellers, small and medium businesses, and many corporates are now emerging from COVID-19 wanting better value.
“They are hungry for flexibility and choice, a trusted brand that resonates with their values, and great prices, along with the premium features they value most.”