Qantas Tried To Have The Head Of Virgin Australia’s Frequent Flyer Program Sent To Prison

Virgin Australia went through bankruptcy during Covid. Under new Bain Capital management they hired the former head of Qantas’ Jetstar, who had just accepted a senior job with Qantas Frequent Flyer, to run their Velocity Frequent Flyer program. And Qantas tried to have him jailed.

As a young BCG consultant he “won an award..for collecting the most frequent flyer points in a year” and describes himself as “a points’ nerd who gets to be in charge of points” (which is similar, in a sense, to Air Canada Aeroplan’s leadership describing themselves as “the inmates running the asylum”).

He’s been called “the man who knew too much” with Qantas arguing he’d had access to privileged information that he shouldn’t be able to bring with him to rival Virgin.

  • Qantas sought a 10-month non-compete in addition to six months’ leave on his departure
  • Virgin and Qantas litigated in Singapore, where his contract was signed
  • Qantas won an injunction. Along the way he was “convicted of contempt of court and fined $27,000” – but Qantas sought to have him imprisoned. He’d texted about loyalty with Virgin Australia’s CEO even though he was enjoined from working for the carrier.

Virgin Australia Velocity has 11 million members and adds approximately 20,000 – 30,000 per week. Frequent flyer revenue totaled AU$411 million in 2019, and the Velocity program is on its way “to back to where we were at in 2019” and beyond. Qantas Frequent Flyer is a 10-figure business.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

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Comments

  1. Noncompete agreements are not enforceable in California except in extremely limited situtations, generally: the sale of a business, limited liability companies, and partnerships. They are viewed as against public policy. Even better, California law prohibits employers, including those who operate out of state but employ California residents, from enforcing noncompete agreements in the state. If a noncompete agreement is made in another state or includes a choice-of-law provision requiring enforcement of the agreement to be governed by the laws of another state, California will not enforce choice-of-law provisions where it violates California’s public policy.

    I only hope that the people who left the state during the pandemic in order to work remotely in another jurisdiction realize the legal protections they gave up.

  2. I find it difficult to think that the outcome of a court case litigated in Singapore could have any effect in another country (in this case, Australia).
    It is typical of the arrogance of Qantas however to push it to the max. to intimidate.
    The irony is that titbits from the machinations of the Qantas FF program are regularly leaked from employees and participants in various hand-picked focus groups where newly dreamed up possible ‘enhancements’ are floated.

  3. “Under new Bain Capital management they hired the former head of Qantas’ Jetstar, who had just accepted a senior job with Qantas Frequent Flyer, to run their Velocity Frequent Flyer program”

    C’mon @ Gary, you’re all mixed up with your facts (as per f—king usual):

    The former “head of Qantas’ Jetstar” (Group CEO) was Jayne Hrdlicka (latterly and very briefly head of QF Loyalty and Digital Ventures before leaving for a2 Milk before joining Virgin Australia as CEO under Bain Capital – with whom she had former associations – in the covert ousting of Paul Scurrah).

    Nick Rohrlach has held senior positions in Jetstar (including Co-CEO Jetstar Japan and Executive VP Jetstar Hong Kong).

    FWIW these events relate to last year – Nick started officially with VA Velocity in September 2021.

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