More changes at Qantas, as senior executive quits

Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth will leave the company in February.

Qantas Loyalty CEO Olivia Wirth will leave the company in February. Photo: AAP

Qantas has lost another senior executive, with loyalty boss Olivia Wirth quitting, days after the airline’s chairman revealed his looming departure.

Wirth was reportedly a leading a contender for the chief executive role at Qantas but missed out to Vanessa Hudson.

She will leave the airline in February “to pursue other opportunities”.

Wirth has been at Qantas for 14 years, and head of its loyalty arm since 2018. Last week, she was appointed to the board of Myer, sparking speculation about her future.

The Australian Financial Review reported on Monday that she has also been named as a likely next head of loyalty at Melbourne’s Crown Casino.

“Qantas has been a massive part of my professional life and I’m really grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given over the years,” she said on Monday, in a statement released by the airline.

“At its core, Qantas is an incredible company and brand and I’ve loved being part of it. I’m extremely proud of what the team at Loyalty has achieved and I’m looking forward to delivering more improvements for members before I leave.”

Hudson paid tribute to Wirth on Monday.

“Olivia’s contribution to this company over many years has been enormous. As CEO of Loyalty, she drove huge expansion of what the program offers and that shows in the growth in members and their engagement levels,” she said on Monday.

“During COVID, Loyalty was one of the few parts of our business that was able to carry on, which took a lot of hard work and imagination.

“There are many improvements for customers in the pipeline that Olivia will continue working on with her team over the next few months, as part of setting this part of the business up for continued success.”

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder to step down

Confirmation of Wirth’s departure comes amid a troubled period for Qantas. Embattled chairman Richard Goyder said last week he would retire before the 2024 annual meeting, while former CEO Alan Joyce departed in September, two months ahead of when he had planned to leave.

Qantas remains embroiled in scandals, including questions over its COVID flight credits, its role in the federal government’s decision to deny rival Qatar Airways extra flights to key Australian capital cities and – most crucially – a High Court ruling that it illegally sacked more than 1700 workers at the height of the pandemic.

In addition, it also faces Federal Court action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Watchdog alleging it engaged in false and misleading conduct by advertising tickets for flights it had already cancelled.

The ACCC accuses the airline of selling tickets on 8000 cancelled flights that had been due to depart between May and July 2022.

Under Wirth’s leadership, Qantas Loyalty expanded its presence in hotels, holidays, insurance and financial services, as well as adding three million members and delivering record earnings.

In her 14 years at Qantas, Wirth has also held several other senior roles, including chief customer officer and group executive for brand, marketing and corporate affairs.

Qantas said the process to replace her at Loyalty would begin shortly.

In other changes announced on Monday, former PwC head of culture, Catherine Walsh has been appointed to the new Qantas role of chief people officer.

She will join the group in January and will report to Hudson.

“Ultimately, building a stronger culture and better relationships with our people is one of my highest priorities and a shared responsibility across management,” Hudson said.

“As our chief people officer, Catherine will support those collective efforts by ensuring we always value the incredible contribution our people make to this organisation and listen to their insights, especially as we welcome thousands more to the group to support our growth.”

Topics: Qantas
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