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‘Defecting’ Velocity CEO set for crunch Qantas hearing on Thursday

written by Adam Thorn | April 27, 2021
Virgin and Qantas shot together (Seth Jaworski)

Qantas will take to the Supreme Court of Singapore on Thursday to obtain an injunction to halt Velocity’s ‘defecting’ new CEO from starting his job next week.

The flag carrier is attempting to push back Nick Rohrlach’s first day so it occurs after a final hearing takes place regarding his appointment, which will likely be in June or July.

The eleventh-hour intervention marks the latest twist in the row between the two airlines, which started after it emerged Rohrlach accepted a job working for Qantas’ loyalty scheme before switching to the Virgin rival shortly afterwards.

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The hearing is set for Thursday afternoon in Singapore, with Qantas hoping to convince Justice Mavis Chionh to stop Velocity’s new recruit from beginning the job before the case can be heard in full.  

The flag carrier is taking the action because it says it had already shared highly sensitive information while onboarding Rohrlach, who was also the ex co-CEO of Jetsar Japan.

Qantas ultimately wants Rohrlach to serve his six-month gardening leave, which would delay his start date from May until 18 September.

However, the case is complicated because Rohrlach signed the contract in Singapore, and also applied for anti-suit protection there to stop Qantas from enforcing the extended start date.

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Qantas argued in the NSW Supreme Court initially that the case should be held in Australia because subsequent agreements nullified another clause in the contract to only allow legal action to take place in Singapore. 

It also argued holding it in Australia would be more convenient to all parties.

However, Justice David Hammerschlag said in the first hearing that Qantas only “faintly” argued its case and said its submission was “unsustainable”.

“The choice of jurisdiction is clear,” Justice Hammerschlag said. “There is no challenge to the jurisdiction of Singapore … that the proceedings have to be conducted remotely and that the parties will be separated from their Australian lawyers are matters of mere inconvenience. Remotely conducted proceedings have been the order of the day for more than a year now.”

The judge ordered Qantas to pay Rohrlach and Virgin’s costs.

Qantas then called the manner of Rohrlach’s defection “an inglorious sequence of events” before its rival hit back by arguing that it was disappointed “the dominant market player” had “chosen to attack us rather than get on with the job at hand”.

“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,” Virgin added.

Qantas then lost an appeal in March to hear the case in Australia, which it again lost. 

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.

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3 Comments

  • Lynden Kemp

    says:

    More Sour Grapes from Qantas and it’s CEO??

  • Willard

    says:

    The fact that he ‘applied for anti-suit protection’ from QANTAS, in SIN, means he knew he wasn’t doing the ‘right thing’ by his former employer.

    Wonder how long before he ‘jumps ship’ from Virgin? If he’s done that to one employer, it’s not a good track record.

  • How much Fed. Govt ( TAXPAYER ) money has QANTAS been given in the last 2 years? And THIS is how they are spending it?? And they’re still “crying poor”?

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