The chief executive of Qantas has announced he will retire two months early amid a series of controversies that have tarnished the image of Australia’s national airline.
Alan Joyce will step down on Wednesday, the airline said in a statement on Tuesday, after weeks of turbulence at the flagship carrier.
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Joyce, who has led Qantas since 2008, had been due to retire in November.
Vanessa Hudson, Qantas’s chief financial officer, will take over the top job, becoming the airline’s first female boss.
“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,” Joyce said in a statement.
“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.”
Qantas has been under fire in recent weeks amid a series of controversies related to its treatment of customers.
Those include revelations that it successfully lobbied the Australian government to deny a bid by Qatar Airways to operate more flights to Europe despite soaring airfares; plans to let nearly $323m of pandemic-era flight credits expire at the year’s end; and allegations that it sold tickets for more than 8,000 flights it knew had been cancelled.
Qantas last month posted an annual profit of $1.1bn but has seen its stock price fall by 13 percent since the start of August amid the negative publicity.
Qantas on Monday apologised for its service falling short of expectations and acknowledged that its reputation had taken a hit.
Under Joyce, Qantas underwent significant restructuring to restore its financial health, including controversially sacking or standing down thousands of staff during the pandemic.
Joyce, 57, said he was proud of his work at Qantas and was leaving “knowing the company is fundamentally strong and has a bright future”.
“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,” he said.