Qantas Chairman to Step Down Next Year to Repair Airline’s Reputation

Qantas Airways Ltd. Chairman Richard Goyder will step down next year as part of a boardroom cleanout as the carrier brings in fresh faces to repair its battered reputation.

(Bloomberg) — Qantas Airways Ltd. Chairman Richard Goyder will step down next year as part of a boardroom cleanout as the carrier brings in fresh faces to repair its battered reputation.

Goyder will retire before the airline’s annual meeting in late 2024, Qantas said Wednesday. Fellow directors Jacqueline Hey and Maxine Brenner will retire at the half-year results in February after decade-long tenures.

Until today, Goyder had brushed off demands that he step aside to take responsibility for the raft of scandals that have diminished the standing of Australia’s largest airline. He also faced criticism for being stretched too thin by simultaneously chairing oil and gas giant Woodside Energy Group Ltd. and the Australian Football League — the nation’s most popular spectator sport.    

Under his watch, the airline illegally sacked 1,700 ground workers during the pandemic, while passenger frustration grew with mounting cancellations and delays. Perhaps most damagingly, Australia’s antitrust watchdog is suing Qantas for selling seats on thousands of services last year that the airline had already decided to cancel.

Goyder’s decision to go after five years in the job — already too long for some shareholders and many staff — follows the early retirement last month of then-Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce.

Shares of Qantas were up 1.3% at 11 a.m. in Sydney trading. Amid the passenger disgruntlement, legal woes and investor unease, the stock is wallowing about 26% below a July peak.

The Transport Workers’ Union, which fought Qantas over the 1,700 contentious Covid-era sackings, criticized Goyder for not following Joyce and exiting this year. It also called for a worker representative to be added to the airline’s board.

Goyder is attempting “to leave in a dignified manner with another year’s pay in his pocket, after presiding over the largest case of illegal sackings in Australian history,” TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said. “This isn’t genuine board renewal — this is just shuffling the deckchairs.’

In an unprecedented move last month, the Australian & International Pilots Association, which represents more than 2,000 Qantas pilots, called on Goyder to resign. 

“The reform and change that Qantas so desperately needs cannot come under this chairman,” Tony Lucas, president of the union, said in a statement then. Goyder “has overseen what may well be one of the most damaging periods in Qantas’ history.” 

Goyder’s flagged departure comes just two weeks after he told a parliamentary inquiry that he had the support of the company’s largest shareholders to carry on in the job. 

“As a board, we acknowledge the significant reputational and customer service issues facing the group and recognize that accountability is required to restore trust,” Goyder said in Wednesday’s statement. “We again apologize for those times where we got it wrong.”

The airline said an independent review will assess major governance issues from the past 12 months and will deliver the results in the second quarter of 2024.

Once the new directors are in place, Qantas board members will have an average tenure of around three years by the time of the 2024 annual meeting, the airline said.

(Updates with stock gain in sixth paragraph, union comment in seventh.)

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