Is Qantas on the lookout for a new CEO?

Qantas has announced that it is searching for a new CEO to lead the iconic Australian airline.

According to the Australian Financial Review, Qantas has hired advisers from leadership advisory firm Russel Reynolds to help in the search. 

This news emerged as current CEO Alan Joyce announced that the flying kangaroo was looking to replace 8500 of the 9800 jobs the airline cut during the pandemic. In a press conference announcing the update, Mr Joyce said that he planned on staying at the helm of Qantas until at least the end of 2023. 

“I’ve always said my task is to leave Qantas in a better position, a stronger position, and once that’s done … my very last task is to make sure I have an internal successor,” said Mr Joyce.

Mr Joyce has insisted that his replacement come from within the Qantas Group, with the new leader poised to take over the national carrier at a time when the group is on the rebound. 

The frontrunners for the job are CFO Vanessa Hudson and Qantas Loyalty boss Olivia Wirth, both of whom have years of experience with the airline. However, it remains to be seen if either of them has what it takes to lead Qantas through its next phase of growth.

These two were on the selection panel, alongside Mr Joyce, to hire former Air New Zealand chief commercial and customer officer Cam Wallace as the new Qantas international airline and freight CEO. This panel chose also Stephanie Tully as Jetstar’s new CEO. 

Ms Hudson’s experience with numbers has helped Qantas turn things around, going from $7 billion in debt to $1.4 billion in profit in just the first half of 2023. According to The Australian, she’s done well in the stock market and is highly spoken of by the finance teams she oversees.

Although Ms Hudson has a total of 30 years of experience in the airline industry, including a period running the Americas, Qantas may be looking for someone with experience managing image and brand. 

Ms Wirth’s experience in media, marketing, and customer relations over the past five years may make her more favourable with customers and her experience with the loyalty business may give her the edge if the Qantas board looks to prioritise winning favour with customers. 

However, this does not mean that she has not been financially successful for the airline. Her work with the Qantas loyalty business, namely, turning it into a more stable money-making machine, has seen it produce earnings before interest and tax of $1.5b since she took charge in March 2018.

It looks as though the brand image may still be a challenge regardless of the new CEO, Morningstar analyst Angus Hewitt told the AFR.

“More planes on time, fewer cancelled flights, fewer bags lost or damaged, and cheaper fares should have a bigger impact on Qantas’ public image than who the chief executive might be,” Mr Hewitt said.

Do you think Qantas will improve with a new CEO? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Also read: Average age of Qantas plane revealed

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.


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