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Joyce exit will be ‘circuit breaker’, say Qantas pilots

written by Adam Thorn | September 5, 2023

Victor Pody shot this Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner, VH-ZNL, arriving in Melbourne.

Qantas’s biggest pilots’ union has said the early exit of CEO Alan Joyce would provide the “circuit breaker” needed to allow the airline to rebuild.

AIPA President Captain Tony Lucas said there is “much work to be done” but added his members “trust that Ms Hudson recognises the power of respecting and valuing all Qantas staff”.

It comes after the Flying Kangaroo revealed on Tuesday morning that Alan Joyce would step down as Qantas CEO two months early to be replaced with CFO Vanessa Hudson. That decision followed the ACCC last week revealing it would take Qantas to court over allegations it had sold more than 8,000 tickets to cancelled flights.

“We look forward to working constructively with incoming CEO Vanessa Hudson to rebuild our iconic airline into the respected and trusted brand that has made all Australians proud,” said Captain Lucas.

“There is much work to be done, however we trust that Ms Hudson recognises the power of respecting and valuing all Qantas staff and how that can play a significant role in the renewal of the airline.


“The Spirit of Australia may be deflated, but it is not defeated and if we all work together, I’m confident Qantas can be great once more.”

The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) is one of two unions that represent Qantas pilots alongside the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP).

Tuesday’s extraordinary announcement means Joyce, who was originally to leave the role at the airline’s AGM in November, will now hand over the reins to CFO Vanessa Hudson as of Wednesday 6 September.

“In the last few weeks, the focus on Qantas and events of the past make it clear to me that the company needs to move ahead with its renewal as a priority,” said Joyce in a statement.

“The best thing I can do under these circumstances is to bring forward my retirement and hand over to Vanessa and the new management team now, knowing they will do an excellent job.

“There is a lot I am proud of over my 22 years at Qantas, including the past 15 years as CEO. There have been many ups and downs, and there is clearly much work still to be done, especially to make sure we always deliver for our customers. But I leave knowing that the company is fundamentally strong and has a bright future.”

Joyce’s early exit comes amid a storm of controversy surrounding Australia’s largest airline group, with the ACCC last week taking the Flying Kangaroo to court over allegations it had sold more than 8,000 tickets to flights it had already cancelled, and calling for a $250 million fine.

In its response, Qantas admitted its reputation had suffered damage on “several fronts” and said it would address the watchdog’s claims fully in court.

“The period of time that the ACCC’s claims relate to, in mid-2022, was one of well-publicised upheaval and uncertainty across the aviation industry, as Qantas struggled to restart post-COVID. We openly acknowledge that our service standards fell well short, and we sincerely apologise. We have worked hard to fix them since, and that work continues.”

Qantas also late last month scrapped its controversial expiry date on COVID-19 flight credits, a move which followed revelations low-cost subsidiary Jetstar still held $100 million worth of unused credit.

The Flying Kangaroo posted a profit of around $2.5 billion in FY23, its first full-year profit since the pandemic.

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