Qantas CEO Forced Into Early Retirement Amidst Scandals

The CEO of Qantas, Alan Joyce, has been forced to step down amidst numerous scandals. But he’s leaving just two months earlier than planned, and pocketing big bonuses on the way out the door.

Qantas was heavily subsidized during the pandemic. They first pushed against government subsidies until Virgin Australia went into receivership. Australians expect something back, but Alan Joyce said the best way for taxpayers to get a return on subsidies is for the airline to earn outsized profits (because then they’ll pay higher tax).

This is actually fair, but tone deaf. Like in the U.S., shareholders picked the pockets of taxpayers. Anything not negotiated up front in law in exchange for subsidies can’t be expected.

Now supply is tight and fares are high. While Australia has air services agreements with 109 countries only a handful like those with China, the United States, and New Zealand are equivalent to Open Skies.

In most cases international flying is bilaterally limited. Qatar Airways has sought more flights, but this competes with the Qantas – Emirates joint venture and Qantas objected. The government denied Qatar more flights which means fewer choices and higher fares for Australians, especially on one-stop travel to Europe.

The reason for this rejection has shifted, but has included Qatar’s human rights record (an issue with numerous other countries that fly to Australia, including the U.A.E. where Emirates is based, and an issue with existing Qatar flights) as well as ‘protecting Australian jobs’ though more flights bring more travelers, and lower fares, and those support the Australian economy – some estimates are that turning down the flights cost the Australian economy hundreds of millions of dollars per year and concomitant job creation (estimates of AU$1 billion strike me as an overreach). The Qatar flights were rejected as protectionism for Qantas.

And it looks like quid pro quo, though isn’t likely so. The timing is awkward with Qantas making the Prime Minister’s son a Chairman’s Club member, an elite status that cannot be earned. The Prime Minister didn’t disclose the gift, claiming his 23 year old son isn’t a dependent even though he ‘lives at home.’ It’s improper for this gift to have been offered, as well as accepted.

The airline has provided horrible service coming out of the pandemic, and then most recently was sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for selling tickets on 8,000 flights that had already been cancelled in mid-2022.

Joyce just last week was awarded $6.7 million in bonuses:

  • AU$$6.5 million in long-term incentives
  • AU$4 million in COVID-era retention payments

That’s separate from a remaining AU$4.8 million short-term performance bonus, which the airline board is being urged to withhold.

He’s leaving just two months earlier than planned, as Vanessa Hudson was slated to become new CEO with Joyce’s retirement in November. By the way here’s Joyce’s retirement home.

My favorite video of Alan Joyce is when he and now-Qantas board member, then American Airlines CEO Doug Parker needed to argue that Air New Zealand remained a strong competitor in the face of their enhanced joint venture.

Joyce was known as a cost-cutter with an abrasive approach to labor. The airline earns profits with the assistance of government. There’s no one more fitting than Doug Parker to have added to its board.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Air New Zealand is a terrific airline. I couldn’t agree more. I love Kiwis. Everyone should visit both islands.

  2. The reason the US airlines are doing so well in Australia is precisely because QF has done so little post covid.
    Open Skies works to open competition and limit crony capitalism which is what Australia has w/ most countries, as you note.
    Qantas, like British Airways, has never been a great airline from a customer service standpoint for all passengers so the Middle East airlines offer a compelling alternative, esp. given that Europe is largely beyond the range of most aircraft from Eastern Australia; if you have to stop for fuel, you might as well connect and get better service and lower fares. If QF can’t control the ME competition then it doesn’t want anyone else.
    You can bring in a new chairman but there are some major structural issues w/ the Australian aviation market that will be hard to fix – just as is true with Canada.

  3. The airline industry has more than its share of terrible people in top management, but Joyce stands head and shoulders above the rest. What’s happened to QF on his watch is repellent and will take many years to undo.

  4. Doesn’t Australia have a supreme court Qantas can lavish gifts on? Or is that strictly an American thing?

  5. Given the stereotypical Aussie fondness for booze, is anyone surprised DUI Dougie took a position with Qantas?

  6. @Gary – Qantas soaking customers and making obscene amounts of money through government intervention then paying a small portion of that windfall in taxes is fair? You and I have a very different definition of fair.

Comments are closed.