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Qantas COO defects to Virgin after three months in role

written by Adam Thorn | December 10, 2020

Virgin Australia has five Boeing 777-300ERs in its fleet. (Louis Loizou)
A Virgin Australia Boeing 777-300ERs shot in 2018. (Louis Loizou)

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.”

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Qantas COO defects to Virgin after three months in role Comment

  • Steve


    So he was head-hunted by Jayne?
    Wonder how long he’ll last with them, after leaving QF after only three months’.



    HOW was there not a 12-18 month Garden Leave clause in the contract of someone so senior?!

    Either he was that good/ desired by QF that he had it removed OR legal/ HR @ QF were asleep on the job at time of hiring.

    Allowing someone that high up in a company that size to jump ship directly to a competitor seems like madness. Don’t get me wrong I’m no fan of Garden Leave clauses but I’ve worked several places, at substantially lower levels and had them imposed Sono couldn’t take trade secrets/ company practices/ internal knowledge across the road to the competition at the drop of a hat.

  • Doug


    There is another part of Australia other than the east coast we in the Teritory would like a fair go with prices

  • AngryBird


    Another UK import who jumped from one role to another regularly without achieving anything substantial. Classic facilitator, a protected species that should be wiped out in the post pandemic airline industry…

  • Volcano


    Time Bring Ansett Back into operation to keep virgin and Qantas honest with international flights prices

  • Trevor


    Looks like QF had a close call with this bloke.
    Glad he’s gone to VA, & with info above from Angrybird, let’s see how long he lasts there.

  • Mike


    It will be interesting to see how he handles the unions…

  • Ross Peden


    Long time Virgin Corporate Customer shedding about 85k per year typically

    Tried book myself and 3 staff to go to Brisbane on Saturday to arrive by 10 30 – only 1 flight at 7 am – Qantas had multiple flights a comparable price going up and were much cheaper on the return flight Monday evening.

    Virgin will need to get their flight frequency up or corporate customers will start to move especially as Qantas as offering Gold/Platinum virgin customers a deal to switch over.

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