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Alan Joyce to step down as Qantas CEO two months early

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce will leave his job two months earlier than expected, following a recent furore over the airline’s profits and service.

Mr Joyce advised the board he was bringing forward his retirement “to help the company accelerate its renewal”, Qantas announced on Tuesday.

CEO designate Vanessa Hudson will assume the role of managing director and group CEO on September 6.

“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,” Mr Joyce said.

“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,” he added.

Qantas has weathered a tumultuous week in which Mr Joyce faced a hostile grilling over airfares, a blowout in COVID refunds and claims it was protected from competitor Qatar Airways by the Albanese government, it was then dealt a massive ACCC lawsuit.

On Friday, Mr Joyce was granted $10.8 million in shares for bonuses deferred during the pandemic in 2020, 2021 and 2022. He is also due for short-term bonus of up to $4.3 million and a long-term bonus of shares worth $8 million for the last financial year, the AFR reported.

On Monday, Qantas issued an abject apology to customers amid allegations that it engaged in “false, misleading and deceptive conduct” by selling tickets on already-cancelled flights.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission last week launched Federal Court action, claiming Qantas engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct after continuing to sell thousands of tickets on flights that had already been cancelled.

The watchdog is seeking penalties, injunctions, declarations and costs in excess of $250 million.

While indicating it may fight the court action, Qantas issued a statement on Monday acknowledging the allegations “have caused significant concern among our customers, our people and the general community”.

“We want to address those allegations as best we can without cutting across the legal process we are now involved in,” it said.

Qantas said the timeframe the ACCC’s claims related to – in mid-2022 – was one of “well-publicised upheaval and uncertainty” across the aviation industry as the it struggled to restart after the COVID pandemic.

“We openly acknowledge that our service standards fell well short and we sincerely apologise,” it said.

“The ACCC’s allegations come at a time when Qantas’ reputation has already been hit hard on several fronts. We want the community to know that we hear and understand their disappointment. We know that the only way to fix it is by delivering consistently. We know it will take time to repair. And we are absolutely determined to do that.”

“They decided to fly from Perth into London, had to get QF9 to go from Melbourne to Perth and into London. Because they’re restricted to just two slots,” he said.

“That’s why Qantas can’t fly into Paris whenever they like. There’s restrictions on flying into Rome. There is no air services agreement with Europe. We have the most competitive aviation market in the world, bar none.”

Earlier Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie had accused to the government of running a “protection racket” for Qantas and pushed for a Senate inquiry into the decision to block the additional 21 Qatar Airways flights, which had potential to reduce airfares and boost the Australian tourism industry.

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