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Joyce says COVID-19 scuppered his planned 2020 Qantas exit

written by Jake Nelson | May 3, 2023

(L-R) Qantas CFO Vanessa Hudson, Chairman Richard Goyder, and CEO Alan Joyce at a press conference following Hudson’s appointment as CEO-designate. (Image: Qantas)

Outgoing Qantas chief executive officer Alan Joyce has revealed he had planned to exit the top job in 2020, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, ahead of his departure in November.

In a press conference welcoming his successor, Qantas CFO Vanessa Hudson, Joyce said that COVID-19 had left Qantas 11 weeks from complete collapse in 2020 and now that the crisis has passed and the Flying Kangaroo has recovered, it is the “logical time” for him to go.

“The board and shareholders asked me to stay on, we raised activity on the basis of that commitment that helped us get through it, that commitment was I would stay to the end of this year,” he said.

“I’m very happy with that commitment, and I’m very happy that Qantas is coming out of this financially stronger with record profitability and well-positioned for the future.”

Joyce congratulated Hudson on being named the first female CEO in the national carrier’s history, praising the “strong women” in Qantas’ management team and describing the CFO as “an outstanding executive with outstanding leadership skills”.


“There’s not many female CEOs in the worldwide aviation industry, and as a credit to this country that a gay Irish man was appointed 15 years ago to be CEO of the company and now, we have the first female accredited to the board,” he said.

“She has been in the company for 28 years; I’ve been working for Qantas for 23. We have worked together on a whole range of different areas over a length of time and most recently the last five years.”

Vanessa Hudson first joined Qantas in 1994 as an internal audit supervisor after two years on External Audits for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. She has been chief financial officer of Qantas Group since October 2019, having been promoted from the role of chief customer officer following a year and a half in the position.

Hudson took over as CFO shortly before COVID-19 border closures wreaked havoc on the Flying Kangaroo’s bottom line. As the CFO during COVID-19, many commentators regard her as the executive that masterminded Qantas’ survival — and subsequent record profits.

Hudson’s team was responsible for raising the cash to keep the airline alive during the darkest days of the pandemic.

“Careful management through this period — including equity raising, debt raising, and asset sales — saw the company make it through the crisis and ultimately emerge with a stronger balance sheet than pre-COVID,” the airline said.

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