Qantas’ incoming CEO, Vanessa Hudson, who was set to take over from Joyce upon his originally scheduled retirement date in November, will become the group’s CEO tomorrow.
Within less than two weeks, Qantas has announced a huge pre-tax profit of $2.47 billion, and had court proceedings brought against it by its customers and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for its conduct since the pandemic began.
The airline is also appealing against two federal court judgements that the outsourcing of 2,000 ground crew jobs during the pandemic travel pause breached Australian law.
“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,” said Joyce in a statement released by Qantas this morning.
“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.”
In the same statement, chair of the airline group’s board, Richard Goyder said the leadership transition came at a difficult time for the carrier.
“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,” he said.
Echo Law announced in August that it was launching a class action against Qantas on behalf of customers over its COVID travel credits system.
The law firm says customers were entitled to a full refund but “instead, Qantas issued the majority of its customers with travel credits or vouchers, which were subject to significant restrictions and would expire if not used. Accordingly, those credits were of much lower value to customers than the refunds to which they were entitled”.
Echo Law is alleging, amongst other things, that the airline “breached its contracts with customers by failing to provide cash refunds for cancelled flights (or failing to provide refunds in a timely manner) and instead providing travel credits” and “unlawfully benefited from customers by holding for years a very significant amount of customer funds that ought to have been refunded”.
Qantas has since removed the expiry dates on COVID-19 travel credits, with all Qantas customers able to get a refund for credits owing, while Jetstar customers can use vouchers indefinitely.
Qantas confirmed to the ABC last week that there were still more than half a billion dollars worth of COVID travel credits outstanding.
Meanwhile, last Thursday, the ACCC launched federal court action against Qantas for selling tickets to flights it had already cancelled and failing to immediately advise customers of cancelled flights between May and July 2022.
Chair of the ACCC, Gina Cass-Gottlieb, told ABC radio that the commission was seeking to raise the level of the penalty faced for this kind of behaviour with the case against Qantas set to be a test.
Nevertheless, in this morning’s statement, Joyce maintained pride in his work at the airline.
“There is a lot I am proud of over my 22 years at Qantas, including the past 15 years as CEO,” he said.
“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.”
In a statement to the ASX on Friday Qantas Group revealed Joyce had been given 1,738,500 Qantas shares, on August 25, which would have been worth over $10.8 million, although the Qantas has price has since fallen almost 10 per cent.
Goyder also thanked Joyce in this morning’s statement.
“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,” he said.