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Jayne Hrdlicka quits as Virgin CEO

written by Jake Nelson | February 20, 2024

Jayne Hrdlicka commenced as Virgin Australia CEO in 2020. (Image: Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka is stepping down after almost four years at the helm of Australia’s second-largest airline group.

The shock announcement comes as the carrier, currently owned by US investment firm Bain Capital, prepares to re-list on the stock market for the first time since it went into administration during the pandemic. The board will now begin a global search for her replacement.

“I have decided the time is right for me to signal CEO transition for this great airline and ultimately to pass the baton on. This is not a decision I have taken lightly, but the last 4 years have been heavy lifting across the organisation during the toughest of times,” said Hrdlicka.

“We are in the midst of the next phase of our transformation program and there is a lot to do and an IPO to deliver. The next phase of this journey is another 3-5 years, making now the perfect juncture to begin the process of leadership transition to deliver the next few chapters of what I’m sure will be a significant long-term success story.

“I am very proud of what the Virgin Australia team have accomplished together since the depths of Administration and the COVID-19 pandemic. I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to guide the team to this point on its journey, and I very much look forward to seeing the continued success of Virgin Australia.”


Hrdlicka, previously CEO of Jetstar and of Qantas Loyalty, left the Qantas Group in 2017 to head up The a2 Milk Company, before resigning in 2019 due to what she would later reveal was her husband’s cancer diagnosis. She was selected to replace Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah in 2020.

Under Hrdlicka’s leadership, the airline struck a deal with unions for a pay freeze to help the airline recover from COVID-19, increased its order of 737 MAX aircraft to help ramp its short-haul international services back up, and overtook Qantas last year as Australia’s most trusted travel brand while posting its first full-year profit in more than a decade.

Her tenure was not without controversy, however, including “hurtful” comments around the reopening of borders in 2020.

Virgin Australia Chairman Ryan Cotton praised Hrdlicka for having led the airline through “the most turbulent times of its 20+ year history”.

“Her leadership was fundamental to repositioning the airline back to its roots as a value carrier, returning Virgin Australia to profitability for the first time in 11 years,” he said.

“It has laid a strong foundation for continued growth and margin expansion that will underpin Virgin Australia’s competitive position in the Australian market.

“To do this required a lot of heavy lifting and the rebuild of many parts of our organisation. A big part of this was resetting our talent pipeline for the long-term, which serves us very well now. These are significant achievements, and we will soon commence looking for a new CEO to continue our transformation journey.”

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Comment (1)

  • Well, the “Boss Lady” has called stumps and I am certain that she can depart with head held very high as she executed a very difficult task in what was quite a toxic environment. I am not surprised though, because from a keen observer’s viewpoint on the one hand you have a proven airline executive successfully running the business whilst the actual owner of the business is really just a financial institution out to make the big bucks in the shortest possible time via an IPO then most likely depart the scene. The Boss Lady’s unexpected departure to me reflects a serious concern by her as to the direction the owner (Bain) wishes to navigate with the enterprise going forward and in such circumstances she is not left with much choice but to leave. I have concerns as to what Bain wishes to achieve with the business with the assets they have and there is no evidence of change on the radar plus, this is most definitely not the time to be looking for a new leader. Some storm clouds ahead me thinks.

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