Qantas chairman to exit late 2024 as airline works to restore reputation

By Rishav Chatterjee and Praveen Menon

(Reuters) -Australia’s Qantas Airways said on Wednesday that its chairman Richard Goyder will step down in late 2024, as the embattled airline renews its board in an effort to restore trust among investors and fix its battered reputation.

The Australian flag carrier has been beset with both legal and regulatory actions, that have led to growing calls from a number of unhappy investors for Goyder’s resignation.

Goyder, who became chairman in 2018, has previously fought against pressure to resign, including from the airline’s pilots, saying that he had followed high ethics throughout his career.

“As a board, we acknowledge the significant reputational and customer service issues facing the group and recognise that accountability is required to restore trust,” Goyder said in a statement announcing that he will retire prior to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in late 2024.

The outgoing chair acknowledged the “difficult period” for the carrier since the COVID pandemic.

“The recovery has not been easy, and mistakes were made. We again apologise for those times where we got it wrong.” he said.

Qantas announced in May that the non-executive director Michael L’Estrange will retire at this year’s AGM on Nov 3. To facilitate further renewal, Jacqueline Hey and Maxine Brenner will retire at the Qantas half-year results in February 2024 after 10 years of service, the statement said on Wednesday.

Qantas has been facing challenges in recent times, with the High Court of Australia in September dismissing its appeal against a judgement which found the airline had cut jobs unlawfully. The ruling came days after Australia’s competition regulator sued the carrier over selling fake seats.

Company chief Alan Joyce retired early in September after a public backlash against Qantas.

“The wave of changes we’re seeing, from CEO to chairman, will always create uncertainty for shareholders, and investors hate uncertainty,” said Josh Gilbert, market analyst at eToro AUS Capital.

“If the new team Qantas are forming can bring a more diplomatic approach to worker relations while also improving customer experience and beating away intensifying competitors with more competitive fares, investors will be able to breathe a sigh of relief,” added Josh.

The Australian Shareholders’ Association said it has been calling for Goyder to step down and take accountability for the service, brand, reputational issues.

“Leadership is required by the Qantas chair and the Board and it is pleasing for retail shareholders to see that Board renewal is coming,” said Australian Shareholders’ Association CEO Rachel Waterhouse.

(Reporting by Rishav Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Michael Perry)