Qantas CFO Vanessa Hudson has won the race to replace Alan Joyce and will be appointed the new CEO in November.
Chairman Richard Goyder, who made the appointment, hailed her handling of the airline’s finances during the COVID crisis and role in renewing its domestic fleet.
Hudson beat off stiff competition for the biggest job in Australia aviation, with rivals rumoured to have included the upcoming head of Project Sunrise, Cameron Wallace, new Jetstar CEO Stephanie Tully and Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.
“A lot of thought has gone into this succession, and the board had a number of high-quality candidates to consider, both internally and externally,” said Goyder.
“Vanessa has a deep understanding of this business after almost three decades in a range of roles both onshore and offshore, across commercial, customer and finance. She has a huge amount of airline experience, and she’s an outstanding leader.
“For the past five years, Vanessa has had a direct hand in shaping our strategy as a member of the Group Management Committee, and her handling of the finance and treasury portfolio during the COVID crisis was outstanding. She also led the fleet selection process in 2022 for the renewal of our domestic jet aircraft over the next decade.
“A key strength of Qantas is the sheer depth of talent it has, and Vanessa will be supported by a deep bench of executives across the organisation as well as by the board.
“This transition is happening at a time when the Qantas Group is extremely well positioned. We have a clear strategy, a strong balance sheet and record profitability that supports a pipeline of investment for customers, opportunities for our people and returns to shareholders.
“Much of the credit for the bright future in front of Qantas goes to Alan. He’s faced more than his fair share of challenges as CEO, and he’s managed them exceptionally well – from the GFC to record oil prices to intense competitive pressures and the COVID crisis.
“The company was restructured to deal with a number of external shocks, and Alan led it to several record profits. He’s overseen a lot of investment in aircraft, lounges, the creation of Jetstar, our cornerstone partnership with Emirates and innovations like the Perth-London route and Project Sunrise.”
Hudson will continue in her current role while also being “CEO designate” and joining the board.
She said it was an “absolute honour” to be asked to lead the national carrier.
“This is an exceptional company full of incredibly talented people, and it’s very well positioned for the future. My focus will be delivering for those we rely on and who rely on us – our customers, our employees, our shareholders and the communities we serve.”
Alan Joyce was appointed Qantas Group chief executive in November 2008 after five years in charge of Jetstar.
It’s long been rumoured he would depart in the next 12 months after he said in February 2021 that COVID-19 would be his “last crisis” as CEO.
Joyce has won plaudits and critics for overseeing a remarkable recent turnaround that saw the business record a half-year profit before tax of 1.428 billion on the back of better-than-expected demand for flying post-COVID.
The result came despite the wider group recording an underlying loss before tax of $1.86 billion in its last full-year results and claiming the pandemic cost its airlines $7 billion in total.