Qantas has made several changes to its management team – including a contender to replace CEO Alan Joyce following rumours about a possible retirement at the end of this year.
Former Air New Zealand executive Cam Wallace has been appointed to lead Qantas’ international and freight division.
Mr Wallace, who has more than two decades of aviation experience in the Asia Pacific region, recently held the title of chief commercial and customer officer for Air New Zealand.
Following his resignation from the airline, in 2020 he became the chief executive of MediaWorks, the owner of a network of commercial radio stations.
As of July 1, 2023, he will replace current International and Freight CEO Andrew David, who will be retiring.
Mr David, who was also in charge of Qantas Domestic after the roles were combined during the pandemic, will stay on until September.
Senior Qantas figures now expect Mr Wallace will be a candidate to replace Mr Joyce later this year, putting him in competition with Qantas Loyalty chief executive Olivia Wirth and the airline’s chief financial officer Vanessa Hudson, according to the Australian Financial Review.
While unveiling a $1.4 billion profit for the December half last Thursday, Mr Joyce told reporters he intended to remain in charge of the airline until at least the end of this year after seeing out the airline’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
During the conference, when asked if it was his last interim result as CEO, Mr Joyce said: “Nothing has changed from what I said before about my tenure … I’m going to be here until at least the end of this year.”
In a statement, Mr Joyce said with Mr David retiring and given the amount of investment now in the pipeline, “it makes sense to again have separate CEOs for the International and Domestic businesses, which are both back to generating billions in revenue each year”.
“Andrew has contributed a huge amount during his 10 years across both Qantas and Jetstar,” he said.
“His leadership of Qantas’ domestic, international and freight businesses has been pivotal, especially during the incredible challenge of putting the airline into hibernation and bringing it back again.”
Mr Joyce commended Mr David’s operational, commercial and strategic perspective, adding his input has been “invaluable”.
“I’ve worked for five airlines in some 30 years of my aviation career,” Mr David said.
“The Qantas Group is an amazing organisation made up of incredibly skilled and passionate people, which makes it hard to leave.”
He said with his family all living in New Zealand, he is looking forward to spending more time with them from September.
Meanwhile, Mr Joyce said Mr Wallace will inherit “a very talented team”, noting he is “one of the best airline executives in the region”.
Qantas said his role will “include growing Qantas International’s capacity to 100 per cent of pre-Covid levels and beyond, as well as guiding preparations for Project Sunrise through to the first flight in late 2025”.
Qantas said it would soon start a recruiting process to replace Mr David in the domestic business. The rest of the management team is unchanged.
“It’s an honour to be joining Qantas, especially at a time when it’s investing so heavily in aircraft and service,” Mr Wallace said.
“It’s the world leader in opening up direct international routes, and Project Sunrise is one of the most exciting things happening in aviation. I’m really looking forward to working with Alan and the team.”
Meanwhile, Mr David’s outsourcing of around 2000 ground handlers during the pandemic was found to be illegal by the Federal Court. But Qantas was given a green light to fight the court ruling and now awaits a verdict from the High Court following the appeal.
It comes as Qantas has come under pressure amid controversies surrounding sacked staff, customer service issues and flight cancellations over the past year.
The high price of its airfares has also been a hot topic. During Thursday’s results conference Mr Joyce defended the ticket prices, saying it’s due to higher fuel costs.
“But also because supply chain and resourcing issues meant capacity hasn’t kept up with demand,” Mr Joyce said.
“Now those challenges are starting to unwind, we can add more capacity and that will put downward pressure on fares.”
Qantas said fuel costs were up 65 per cent, compared to pre-pandemic levels, while average airfares were up around 20 per cent on 2021 levels.
However, while it is promising a reduction in fares, it told investors prices will remain “significantly above financial year 2019 levels”.