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Qantas appoints Vanessa Hudson as new CEO, replacing Alan Joyce

There are some big management changes coming to Qantas, as the carrier’s long-serving CEO retires, to be replaced by another senior Qantas executive.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce will step down in November 2023

Alan Joyce will retire from Qantas from November 2023. Joyce, 56, has served as CEO of Qantas for 15 years, making him one of the longest-serving CEOs in the industry, as it is rare that lasts that long in one position. Joyce was reportedly going to retire around the start of the pandemic, but at the request of the board ended up staying on for the duration of the pandemic.

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder said the following about Joyce̵[ads1]7;s retirement:

“Much of the credit for the bright future ahead of Qantas goes to Alan. He has faced more than his fair share of challenges as CEO and he has met them exceptionally well โ€“ from the GFC, to record oil prices, to intense competitive pressure and the COVID crisis .โ€

“The company was restructured to deal with a number of external shocks and Alan led it to several record profits. He has overseen many investments in aircraft, lounges, the creation of Jetstar, our cornerstone partnership with Emirates and innovations such as the Perth-London route and Project Sunrise. ยป

“Alan has done an excellent job leading a team that is absolutely committed to the national carrier’s long-term success, and it is from that team that his successor has been chosen.”

If you ask me, Joyce has a mixed legacy at the airline, and is quite polarizing – some people think he’s done a great job, while others think he’s done a terrible job.

To Joyce’s credit, he has always run the airline in a disciplined and conservative manner, and the company has weathered quite a few storms under his leadership. Some cool innovations have come under Joyce’s leadership, such as launching direct flights from Perth to London, ordering Airbus A350s for the world’s longest flights, which will be known as “Project Sunrise”, and refreshing the narrow fleet.

What stands out to me most about Joyce, however, is the way he has approached working relationships. He has consistently viewed employees as completely replaceable, and has made some pretty ruthless cuts to the workforce, from outsourcing to hiring employees under new contracts.

Furthermore, it cannot be denied that the perception of Qantas has deteriorated significantly in Australia during the pandemic, as the airline is not the beloved national carrier that it once was. Then again, declining perceptions of airlines are hardly unique to Australia.

Qantas appoints Vanessa Hudson as new CEO, replacing Alan Joyce
Qantas has ordered the Airbus A350

Vanessa Hudson will be the new CEO of Qantas

Alan Joyce will be replaced by Vanessa Hudson, who will take over as Qantas CEO from November 2023. She currently serves as Qantas Group Chief Financial Officer, having worked at the airline for over 28 years, including as Chief Customer Officer and SVP of 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 variety of roles both onshore and offshore, across commercial, customer and finance. She has a huge amount of airline experience and she is an outstanding leader.”

“For the past five years, Vanessa has had a direct hand in shaping our strategy as a member of the Group Executive Board, and her handling of the finance and finance portfolio during the covid crisis was outstanding. She also led the 2022 fleet selection process for the renewal of our domestic jets during of the next decade.โ€

“A key strength of Qantas is the depth of talent it has and Vanessa will be supported by a deep bench of leaders across the organization as well as the board.”

Congratulations to Hudson on his new job. I think it’s safe to say that it will be business as usual at Qantas, and that she won’t rock too much. She seems like a safe bet, given how long she’s been in the Qantas ecosystem, 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 transition point, between the narrow body fleet, and the A350s joining the fleet in the coming years. I think she will have her hands full executing that vision.

Qantas has ordered the Airbus A220

The bottom line

Qantas will finally see a change in senior management, as Alan Joyce steps down after 15 years as the company’s chief executive. He will be replaced by Vanessa Hudson, who is currently CFO and has been with the airline for decades. Congratulations to Hudson on this new role, as it is 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 good choice.

What do you think about Qantas CEO changes?

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