Alan Joyce calls it quits after tumultuous week for Qantas

Alan Joyce has stepped down from Qantas two months earlier than planned.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has quit two months earlier than expected following a bruising week for the airline that has been subjected to a barrage of criticism on multiple fronts.

Set to step down in November, Joyce has brought his retirement forward in a move designed to fast track a new chapter for Qantas which has been subject to a series of broadsides from MPs, the unions and the public.

Joyce has been in the role since 2008 and seen off plenty of criticism during his tenure in the hot seat for Australia’s biggest carrier. But the recent Senate Committee hearing during which he was grilled over a series of failings from Covid flight credits and falling public trust through to allegations he lobbied the government to prevent rival airline Qatar Airways adding extra international flights into Australia.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is also taking Qantas to court over allegations it had sold tickets to more than 8,000 flights that had already been cancelled.

The final straw for unions was the $10 million boost to Joyce’s exit pay packet thanks to an executive bonus linked to the carrier’s record profits in FY23.

“The best thing I can do under these circumstances is to bring forward my retirement and hand over to Vanessa [Hudson] and the new management team now, knowing they will do an excellent job,” he said.

“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.”

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder thanked Joyce “for his leadership through some enormous challenges”.

“This transition comes at what is obviously a challenging time for Qantas and its people,” he said. “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.”

With Hudson stepping into the chief executive role straight away, Rob Marcolina will become the Group’s chief financial officer. Hudson’s appointment marks the first time Qantas has appointed a female chief executive.

Qantas may be hoping Joyce’s early exit will allow for a narrative reset, but Hudson will be thrown into the deep end with a Senate inquiry to investigate the airline’s relationship with the government gathering momentum and the unions piling on the pressure to reverse the carrier’s executive bonuses during a cost of living crisis.