Qantas chairman Richard Goyder has said Alan Joyce and his executive team have done “exceptionally well” in a strongly-worded riposte to the CEO’s critics.
Writing in the Australian Financial Review, Goyder hailed his senior staff for steering the airline through a pandemic that “sent other airlines and their creditors packing”.
It comes amid criticism that Joyce’s annual salary increased by 15 per cent to $2.27 million despite a string of problems to plague the business, including record delays and hours-long call wait times.
The 900-word opinion piece argued most aviation companies globally are grappling with the same problems as Qantas.
“This is what happens when you shut down an entire sector for more than two years,” he wrote. “Companies make deep cuts to survive. Skilled people walk away because the uncertainty seems endless.”
He said Qantas is now well on its way to fixing its problems, quipping, “If you haven’t heard this, it may be because the data showing the improvement received far less media attention than stories showing how bad things got.
“In the meantime, the corporate obituary writers have been busy. Their analysis has (mostly) been unencumbered by what’s happening at other airlines, or that Qantas’ performance has turned around.”
Goyder then said in order to “set the record straight”, he would give a “quick response” to common criticism.
In a section titled, ‘It’s all the CEO’s fault’, he said “People who think Qantas couldn’t have failed or was enriched by government handouts are simply wrong.
“We don’t shy away from the service failures that happened as the airline restarted. But any reasonable assessment has to start with looking around the world and Australia to see how Qantas compares in an industry that is working incredibly hard to get back on its feet.
“We will continue that hard work to meet the high standards all stakeholders expect from us.”
In 2022, Qantas has faced a string of problems, including huge delays at Easter, hours-long call wait times, and even a revelation that the cabin crew of a Qantas A330 were made to sleep across seats in economy.
Last year, the Federal Court ruled the Flying Kangaroo was wrong to outsource 2,000 ground handling roles and subsequently rejected an initial appeal.
The airline last week insisted Joyce’s salary was effectively 77 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels because of the lack of an annual bonus. Joyce also took no pay for three months in 2020 and for one month in 2021, alongside periods of reduced pay.
In August, Australian Aviation reported how Qantas recorded an underlying loss before tax of $1.86 billion in its full-year financial results.
Joyce said the result takes the before tax impact of COVID-19 on the wider group to $7 billion, which he called “staggering”.
“The past year has been challenging for everyone. We had to ramp down almost all flying once Delta hit and stay that way for several months before ramping back up through multiple Omicron waves as we all learned to live with COVID-19 in the community,” said Joyce.