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Senior Virgin executive quits amid ‘internal review’ of workplace behaviour

written by Hannah Dowling | November 22, 2021

 

A Virgin Australia Boeing-737-800 lands at Sydney Airport. (Source: Australian Aviation archives)

Virgin Australia’s chief of corporate affairs Moksha Watts has resigned from her role after an internal review of her workplace behaviour commenced.

While it is not currently known what sparked such an investigation, Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka announced Watts’ departure to employees in a memo and added that “grievances of any nature will be taken seriously and we follow due process in investigating in order to be fair to everyone involved”.

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Watts was in the role for just eight months, after being appointed under Virgin’s major management reshuffle earlier this year.

According to the memo, sent to Virgin staff and seen by The Australian, Watts came to the decision herself to resign “in the midst of an ongoing international review into her workplace behaviour”.

“She felt it was in her best interests and the best interests of the company to resign,” wrote Hrdlicka.

The resignation comes after Virgin suffered a “significant turnover of staff” in the corporate affairs department, which was overseen by Watts, according to The Australian’s report.

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Virgin’s chief people officer Lisa Burquest is set to take over Watt’s responsibilities as interim chief of corporate affairs.

“At Virgin Australia, we work hard to ensure our workplace is a safe and positive workplace for everyone and we strive to live our values every day,” Hrdlicka told employees.

Despite the untoward circumstances of Watts’ departure from the airline, Hrdlicka noted that she “had done a significant and valued job with governments, key stakeholders and crafting the company’s sustainability policy”, since she took up the top communications job in March of this year.

Watts was one of half a dozen new appointments in Virgin’s executive leadership team that were announced in January, following the airline’s exit from administration under new owner Bain Capital.

In fact, all but one of Virgin’s pre-administration executive team survived the major reshuffle, with long-serving COO Stuart Aggs as the last man standing.

Meanwhile, Watts and Hrdlicka worked together previously, when Hrdlicka was CEO at Jetstar and Watts held a senior management role in government, industry and international affairs. Watts later became head of sustainability and industry affairs at Qantas.

Watts’ resignation joins the growing list of recent adjustments to Virgin’s panel of C-suite executives that have sparked controversy.

In June, the airline announced its new chief commercial officer, Dave Emerson. Emerson is notably a 21-year veteran of new owner Bain Capital’s “sister” consultancy firm, Bain & Company.

The move sparked speculation that new owners Bain Capital hoped to keep a more watchful eye on their Australian assets by dropping in a trusted lieutenant.

Later, in September, the new CEO of Virgin’s loyalty program Velocity, Nick Rohrlach, was able to finally complete his first day on the job after a months-long court battle.

According to reports, Rohrlach, the former CEO of Qantas subsidiary Jetstar Japan, had accepted a new senior role at Qantas Frequent Flyer before ultimately taking the job at Velocity.

Qantas then sparked legal action against Rohrlach to enforce a six-month non-compete clause and delay Rohrlach’s move, arguing that the former Qantas Group employee had been exposed to “highly sensitive” information during his onboarding process at its own loyalty program, which the airline feared he would share with rival Virgin upon taking up his new position.

The court process ultimately saw Rohrlach’s start date at Velocity delayed from March to September this year.

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