Qantas ex-CEO takes 900% pay rise, but bonus cut amid scandals

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s Qantas Airways said its former CEO took a pay increase of 872% as he collected years’ worth of long-term incentives on the way out, but added it was cutting and withholding hefty bonuses amid damaging lawsuits.

Alan Joyce, who retired early this month after a regulator lawsuit accused Qantas of selling tickets on thousands of already-cancelled flights, took home A$21.4 million in the 2023 financial year, according to the company’s annual report, published on Wednesday.

Most of the amount was share-based incentives that Joyce was allowed to cash in after they vested, according to the report. Joyce’s total pay for the previous year was A$2.3 million.

Qantas cut an additional short-term bonus for Joyce by one-fifth of the A$2.7 million available and withheld it pending the outcome of two lawsuits that may result in hefty fines and further reputational turbulence for the company, the report added.

“In recognition of the customer and brand impact of cumulative events, the Board has applied its discretion to reduce short-term incentives” for Joyce and other executives, Chairman Richard Goyder said in the report.

The company was able to recall A$8.4 million of share-based bonuses Joyce collected in the year but is not yet allowed to sell, the report added. It could also “claw back” unvested stock bonuses for Joyce, currently worth A$6 million, it said.

Joyce’s final pay packet encapsulates his decade and a half of running the company, which dominates Australian air travel. Qantas made a record annual profit for the year to June 2023, but it came amid public outrage over cancelled flights and employee disquiet over the sacking of 1,700 ground staff during COVID-related border closings.

The airline faces an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission lawsuit saying it broke consumer law by selling fares for 8,000 flights that were already cancelled in mid-2022, soon after the border reopened. Qantas has said it is considering the lawsuit.

The High Court declared the 2020 sackings illegal this month. Qantas must return to the Federal Court to determine what it must pay in penalties and compensation to affected workers.

“Alan … openly recognised that there were elements of the COVID restart that could have been managed better and took action to start turning that around,” Goyder wrote in the report.

(This story has been refiled to remove an extraneous letter in paragraph 7)

($1 = 1.5504 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Byron Kaye in Sydney and Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Gerry Doyle)