Goodbye and Good Riddance

Few will lament Alan Joyce leaving Qantas. His legacy is one of incredible brand damage, a diminished business and pretentious wokery.

Goodbye and Good Riddance
Photo by Troy Mortier / Unsplash

The best thing about Qantas right now is that Alan Joyce is no longer in charge.

He has presided over the decline of a once mighty corporate brand and made it a running joke among regular travellers.

During his time in charge, customer service standards have declined markedly and the public image of the national icon has never been lower.

For overseeing this mismanaged decline, it is reported that Joyce is receiving a $24 million golden handshake and presumably a batch of other benefits.

Little wonder there is public outrage.

For fifteen years, Joyce ran Qantas like a woke kingdom, seemingly more intent on displays of virtue to his captive fare-payers than in ensuring their needs were met.

Paying premium prices for budget service wasn't even the worst of it.

Is it really more important to have planes take off and land on time than lecture the great unwashed about the wonders of same-sex marriage or gender bending?

Who needs bags to arrive with the plane when you can be welcomed to some mythical Aboriginal nation?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has alleged that Qantas was selling tickets on flights that it had already cancelled.

These ghost flights were cancelled over a three month period in 2022, causing chaos for travellers.

The Australian reported:

It was alleged the investigation identified more than 8000 cancelled flights for which tickets were offered for sale on average 16 days later. They were among over 10,000 flights that ­appeared on customers’ “manage my booking” page for an average of 18 days after they were cancelled, giving the impression they were going ahead.

Unsurprisingly, the ACCC wants a fine of $250 million to punish what happened under Joyce's watch.

Some purists will point to Joyce's record of delivering profits to Qantas shareholders.

There's some truth to that but profits were also delivered using financial engineering schemes that benefit bosses rather than shareholders.

Here's how it works.

When a new CEO steps into a company, their first priority is to write down as much of the goodwill, brand value or deferred costs as they possibly can. That creates a loss and usually a commensurate drop in share price.

Their next course of action is to negotiate their incentives and bonuses around the diminished stock price and a promise of returning the company to profitability.

Then, a year or two later, the intangibles are revalued at a much higher figure delivering a record profit and record bonuses to the savvy CEO.

It's a cycle that can be repeated several times over a CEO tenure, allowing maximum personal profitability.

More recently, the $7 billion in COVID associated losses by Qantas allowed the incentive springboard to operate again.

After milking around $2.7 billion of taxpayer funds, outsourcing staff, making refunds difficult, not investing in new aircraft, Qantas announced a record profit on which Joyce could hang his final hat.

The cost of his outrageous goodbye cheque is nothing compared to the cost he has done to the Qantas brand.

I stopped flying Qantas many years ago. Even when I was a member of their secretive Chairman's Lounge, I avoided their service wherever possible.

There was just something about what Joyce had done to the business that sat uncomfortably with me.

I knew it also sat uncomfortably with a number of their staff too.

Re-establishing the reputation of Qantas post the Joyce departure shouldn't be too difficult. I'm sure many Australians want it to succeed and will give any new initiatives the benefit of the doubt.

Those initiatives should include scapping the incessent and annoying virtue signalling introduced by Joyce. The board also needs to accept their share of blame with at least the Chairman falling on his sword.

If the planes can take off and land on time, with passengers luggage on board, that would be a bonus too.

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