Qantas is taking legal action to push back the start date of Virgin Velocity’s new CEO, after it emerged he previously accepted a senior role on its own loyalty scheme.
The AFR reports the flag carrier will take ex-Jetstar Japan co-CEO Nick Rohrlach to the NSW Supreme Court tomorrow, where it will suggest it had shared “highly sensitive” information while onboarding him.
Qantas said the matter is “disappointing at best” and “an inglorious sequence of events”.
Virgin hit back by saying it was “confident it would be vindicated” and said it was disappointing “the dominant market player” had “chosen to attack us rather than get on with the job at hand”.
The case will see the business argue that Rohrlach must serve his six-month gardening leave, which would delay his start date from mid-May until 18 September. Qantas also owns a 33 per cent stake in Jetstar Japan.
The AFR adds that there are similar proceedings underway in Singapore, where he signed the contract with the airline. Justice James Stevenson will oversee the case in the NSW Supreme Court, with a directions hearing set for Tuesday.
“Mr Rohrlach had accepted a senior role in Qantas Loyalty and had received highly sensitive information in preparation for starting in that role,” Qantas said in a statement.
In response, a Virgin spokesperson told Australian Aviation, “As is appropriate with matters before the court, Virgin will put its evidence and arguments to the court under a court-mandated timetable.
“We are disappointed that Qantas has chosen to criticise us the way they have today in a media statement while court proceedings are on foot in relation to this matter, and categorically deny that we have been anything but proper and appropriate in Mr Rohrlach’s recruitment.
“At this particularly critical juncture, with vaccines rolling out and new virus variants emerging, Australian airlines need to work to get our country flying again.”
In January, Australian Aviation reported how new Virgin chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka’s refreshed senior team included just one executive remaining from predecessor Paul Scurrah’s era.
It included Qantas’ chief operating officer, Paul Jones, who left the airline after just three months to become Virgin’s new chief customer and digital officer.
The appointments also included poaching Woolworth’s chief financial officer to take the same role at the airline.
Scurrah apparently resigned in October 2020 to be replaced by the former head of Jetstar late last year.
The new exits include chief commercial officer John MacLeod who is retiring; chief financial officer Keith Neate, who will leave the business at the end of March; chief legal and risk officer Dayna Field; and chief information officer Cameron Stone.
Velocity chief executive Karl Schuster and chief people and culture officer Lucinda Gemmell left the business in January and April 2020, respectively.