There are some major management changes coming to Qantas, as the carrier’s long-serving CEO is retiring, and is being replaced by another senior Qantas executive.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce retiring in November 2023
Alan Joyce will be retiring from Qantas as of November 2023. 56-year-old Joyce has served as CEO of Qantas for 15 years, making him one of the longer serving CEOs in the industry, as it’s rare they last that long in one position. Joyce was reportedly supposed to retire around the start of the pandemic, but at the request of the board, ended up staying on throughout the pandemic.
Qantas Chairman Richard Goyder said the following about Joyce’s retirement:
“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 a 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.”
“Alan has done a superb job of leading a team that is absolutely committed to the national carrier’s long-term success and it’s from that team that his successor has been chosen.”
If you ask me, Joyce has a mixed legacy at the airline, and is pretty polarizing — some people think he has done a great job, while others think he has done a terrible job.
To Joyce’s credit, he has always run the airline in a disciplined and conservative way, and the company has weathered quite a few storms under his leadership. Some cool innovations have come under Joyce’s leadership, like launching nonstop Perth to London flights, ordering Airbus A350s for the world’s longest flights, which will be known as “Project Sunrise,” and refreshing the narrow body fleet.
What sticks out to me most about Joyce, though, is the way he has approached labor relations. He has consistently viewed staff as being completely replaceable, and has made some pretty ruthless labor cuts, from outsourcing, to hiring staff under new contracts.
Furthermore, there’s no denying that the perception of Qantas has deteriorated significantly in Australia during the pandemic, as the airline isn’t the beloved national airline that it once was. Then again, declining perceptions of airlines is hardly unique to Australia.
Vanessa Hudson will become new Qantas CEO
Alan Joyce will be replaced by Vanessa Hudson, who will take over as Qantas CEO as of November 2023. She currently serves as Qantas Group’s Chief Financial Officer, and has worked in the airline group for over 28 years, including as Chief Customer Officer and SVP for the Americas and New Zealand.
Here’s what Qantas Chairman Richard Goyder said about Hudson’s appointment:
“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.”
Congrats to Hudson on her new job. I think it’s safe to say that it will be business as usual at Qantas, and that she won’t be rocking the boat too much. She seems like a safe option, given how long she has been in the Qantas ecosystem, and has been working with Joyce.
While it’s fun to imagine a CEO with fresh thinking and an outside perspective, the reality is that Qantas is at quite a transitionary point, between its narrow body fleet replacement, and the A350s joining the fleet in the coming years. I think she’ll have her hands full executing that vision.
Qantas will finally see a senior management change, as Alan Joyce retires after 15 years of being the company’s CEO. He will be replaced by Vanessa Hudson, who is currently CFO, and has been at the airline for decades. Congrats to Hudson on this new role, as it’s always great to see more female CEOs in the airline industry.
If Qantas’ goal is to maintain the status quo (which it seems to be), then I think she’s a great choice.
What do you make of Qantas’ CEO changes?