Low staff morale, distrustful public are key issues for new Qantas CEO

CEO Vanessa Hudson has been left to clean up Alan Joyce's mess. Photo: AAP

CEO Vanessa Hudson has been left to clean up Alan Joyce's mess. Photo: AAP Photo: AAP

New Qantas chief executive officer Vanessa Hudson must resolve the issues faced by customers and a workforce crippled with low morale if she is to win back the public’s trust in the flying kangaroo.

Ms Hudson admitted in a recorded message to staff that the airline hasn’t “always delivered what our customers expect,” as she starts her new role at Qantas.

“We are listening and we hear what they are saying,” she said.

“Right now, achieving this balance must start with our customers, and that’s what we will be focused on with our new management team.”

The new Qantas boss arrives at a time of upheaval for the airline, with former CEO Alan Joyce weathering blistering criticism for placing shareholders’ profits over customers, dodgy business practices and accusations of anti-competition efforts which ultimately resulted in him leaving the company two months ahead of schedule.

Gui Lohmann, a researcher at Griffith University, said staff morale at Qantas “is very low,” posing a serious challenge for Ms Hudson.

“It’s been reported that some flight attendants can’t go to medical or dentist appointments. There’s also a sense that passenger behaviour is not properly addressed by Qantas,” he said.

“There’s also low morale because it is a challenging environment to operate in because the customers are just fed up.”

He said Qantas urgently needs to train a new workforce, one that may not be familiar with the airline industry.

“They are contacting cabin crew that left the organisation and are trying to persuade them to come back and be retrained,” Dr Lohmann said.

“A lot of them do not want to do it because they realise that the organisation they were so proud of doesn’t exist any more.”

Challenging times

The 100-year-old airline has a “special relationship” with Australians, but Qantas has seemed set on burning goodwill with the public and its staff in the search for maximised profits.

Dr Lohmann said to solve the staff morale problem, the culture at Qantas needs to change, starting with “being proud of the brand”.

“Vanessa Hudson needs to decide that if their staff is really a priority, that culture and support will need to be in place,” he said.

“How they are going to do that, while they are transitioning to a new workforce, is not going to be easy.”

Mr Joyce sacked 6000 workers and stood down 15,000 without pay during the pandemic, resulting in many leaving the industry completely and leaving Qantas scrambling for new blood as it aims to bring in 2300 new pilots, cabin crew and engineers in the next 12 months.


Qantas faces severe staff morale issues due to former CEO Alan Joyce’s handling of industrial relations. Photo: Getty

Ms Hudson is in the precarious position of having to balance the profits delivered by Mr Joyce and the ailing reputation of the airline.

Dr Lohmann said whether Ms Hudson tries to position Qantas as a premium carrier remains to be seen.

“We’re going through an inflationary economy at the moment. Costs are going through the roof and with Qantas delivering to the shareholders, the margin has to be there,” he said.

“Before the pandemic, competition was very tough and profitability in the airline sector is usually very low.”


Dr Lohmann said another major issue will be the rejuvenation of the fleet and whether Qantas continues with social advocacy.

“It is good we don’t have a divisive CEO like Alan Joyce. His time was up,” he said.

“The profits were at the expense of the customers because it was all about prioritising the returns to the shareholders.”

Qantas planes lined up on the tarmac

Qantas already has plans to rejuvenate its fleet, but must handle sustainability challenges. Photo: AAP

When announcing its first profitable year since before the pandemic, Qantas stated it would order 12 new Boeing 787s and 12 Airbus A350s.

Dr Lohmann said the airline must also wrestle with cutting its carbon emissions.

“They need to improve their fleet on so many levels, including better technology, more efficient aircraft and engines to reduce their carbon emissions,” he said.

“It will be interesting to what the new CEO’s priorities are.”

In 2022, airlines accounted for 2 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, and Qantas has pledged to reduce its footprint by 25 per cent by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050.

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.