Vanessa Hudson: Qantas appoints first female CEO as Alan Joyce steps down

May 2, 2023  –Australia’s flagship airline Qantas has announced its Chief Financial Officer Vanessa Hudson will replace current CEO Alan Joyce.

She will become Qantas’ first female boss when she takes over in November.

The airline has suffered turbulence in recent times, with record losses during Covid-19 and a series of controversies damaging the brand.

Ms Hudson, who joined Qantas in 1994, identified restoring the airline’s reputation as a priority.

In a statement, she said her historic appointment was “an absolute honour”.

“I have two young daughters… and I have always been a mother who has wanted to lead by example,” she told reporters.

Ms Hudson praised the airline as an “exceptional company”, but also promised to work “very hard” to restore it to its former glory.

Last year, Qantas suffered severe criticism over cancelled flights, lost luggage and delays, but bounced back this year with half-year profits of A$1.4bn (£742.6m, $928.7m)

“We are very up front in recognising that the customer experience was not where we wanted it to be [and] we have invested A$200 million dollars to get the performance back where we were pre-Covid,” Ms Hudson said.

She said she would also seek to build a “constructive relationship” with aviation unions in a spirit of “mutual trust”, after strained relations during Mr Joyce’s tenure.

In 2021, Australia’s federal court ruled that Qantas had illegally outsourced almost 1,700 ground staff jobs during the pandemic. The airline then began a high court appeal to avoid paying compensation over the move.

Chairman Richard Goyder paid tribute outgoing CEO Mr Joyce, saying he had done a “superb job” in his 15 years at the top despite the challenges he faced, including the 2008 financial crisis, the pandemic and record oil prices.

Mr Joyce often received personal criticism during his tenure, with his A$19m north Sydney mansion pelted with eggs and toilet paper at the height of the recent airport chaos.

He was also famously attacked – struck in the face with a lemon meringue pie – at a 2017 business breakfast in Perth, over his public support of same-sex marriage during a national debate on legalising it.

Mr Joyce described stepping down as a “bittersweet moment”, having steered the airline through tough times.

“There’s still a lot I want to deliver in the next six months, and at the top of that list is ensuring a smooth handover to Vanessa, who I’m sure will excel in the role,” he said.

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