Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has spectacularly quit the airline after walking out on his job months before he was due to retire with a $24million golden handshake.
Mr Joyce, 57, was due to exit the company in November at the AGM but has been under growing pressure in recent days which has thrown the airline into crisis mode.
Qantas has come under increased scrutiny since it posted a $2.5billion profit last Thursday after it received $2.7billion in Government Covid handouts.
And Mr Joyce’s role in the government’s decision to ban Qatar Airways from adding 28 more Australian flights to its schedule has also been questioned.
Rivals claim the move has inflated Australian air fares by around 40 per cent for travellers.
The airline is also facing multiple legal actions over tickets sold for already cancelled flights and passengers unable to get their money back for trips axed during Covid.
Now Mr Joyce has decided to quit immediately rather than ride out the firestorm until his planned leaving date in November.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce (pictured with PM Anthony Albanese) has quit the airline after walking out on his job months before he was due to retire with a $24million golden handshake
He has immediately handed over the reins to incoming CEO Vanessa Hudson who will start in the job on Wednesday.
‘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,’ he said.
‘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.’
Mr Joyce earned a record $23.9million in 2018 and is expected to rake in between $15million and $18million after bonuses this year, with another $6million in incentives when he quits, for a $24million nest egg to cushion his retirement.
He sold more than 80 per cent of the Qantas shares he owned on June 1 for $17million, unloading 2.5million shares at $6.75 each.
Since then, ongoing bad publicity and legal actions have seen the share price crash to its current level of $5.65, meaning Mr Joyce’s shares would have been worth $2.7million less than he got for them in June.
The airline is now facing legal action from the ACCC over allegations Qantas sold tickets for 8000 ghost flights which had already been cancelled.
Furious customers have also launched a class action against Qantas over the way they have held onto their cash when flights were cancelled.
Last week, Qantas backtracked on an earlier decision to expire all current Covid flight credits by the end of the year after a furious backlash.
The company released a statement on Monday admitting its shortcomings in the way it has handled the ticketing issue, but it has since been removed from the airline’s website.
Qantas admitted in the now-deleted statement on Monday: ‘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.’
A Senate select committee hearing summoned Mr Joyce on Monday to face a grilling from senators over the way the airline was being run.
Mr Joyce has also faced questions over granting the PM’s son Nathan, 23, and his girlfriend Jodie Haydon complementary membership of the prestigious Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.
Alan Joyce has also faced questions over granting the PM’s son Nathan, 23, and his girlfriend Jodie Haydon (pictured) complementary membership of the Qantas Chairmans’ Lounge
Qantas has come under increased scrutiny since it posted a $2.5billion profit last Thursday after it received $2.7billion in Government Covid handouts
Mr Joyce launched his career in airline management after his poor eyesight ruled him out of being a pilot while working as a research analyst with Irish national carrier, Aer Lingus.
Qantas Chairman Richard Goyder paid tribute to the outgoing CEO and said: ‘Alan has always had the best interests of Qantas front and centre, and today shows that.
‘On behalf of the board, we sincerely thank him for his leadership through some enormous challenges and for thinking well-ahead on opportunities like ultra long-haul travel.
‘This transition comes at what is obviously a challenging time for Qantas and its people.
‘We have an important job to do in restoring the public’s confidence in the kind of company we are, and that’s what the Board is focused on, and what the management under Vanessa’s leadership will do.’
As planned, shareholders will formally vote on the appointment of Vanessa Hudson as Managing Director at Qantas’ Annual General Meeting in November.
Today’s announcement means one of the announced in June this year will also be accelerated, namely the appointment of Rob Marcolina as the Group’s Chief Financial Officer in-line with current CFO, Vanessa Hudson’s, transition to the Group CEO role.