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John Borghetti leaves the plane – Paul Scurrah announced as new CEO and MD of Virgin Australia Group (updated)

John Borghetti leaves the plane – Paul Scurrah announced as new CEO and MD of Virgin Australia Group (updated)

Via an announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange, and a press conference today (Wed 6 Feb), the new head of Virgin Australia has been announced. He will replace John Borghetti as of 25 March 2019 – which is about 9 months earlier than previously announced.

Virgin are holding a press conference at midday AEST – so expect an update then.

Just a bit qualified

His experience covers aviation and transport logistics, and includes stints at Austrlian Airlines (remember them?), Qantas, Ansett Australia, REX, Tourism Queensland, Flight Centre, AOT Holidays, Queensland Rail, Aurizon, and most recently at the huge stevedore DP Australia, one of the countries biggest supply chain and port operators.

There is no doubt that he is qualified for the task – despite being a resident of Brisbane! He’ll split his time between the Virgin base in Brisbane and and Virgin Australia HQ in Sydney.

The overlooked candidates

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that:

Other candidates previously floated for the top job included former Hawaiian Airlines boss Mark Dunkerley, who was seen as a front-runner at one point. Former Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour and Westpac executive George Frazis were also touted as contenders.

Patrick Hatch, The AGE

Return to Profit

That seems to be the major task that Paul will have: to turn the company around from its period of loss-making full-service operator expansion, into a profitable player. It has made a statutory loss for the last six years, running up total losses of around $1.6 billion. That’s a lot of loot to make up – especially with talk of recession around the corner.

At the same time, Mr Scurrah is going to have to manage the demands of Virgin Australia Groups major airline investors.

Borghetti’s legacy

Borghetti has taken the fledgling Virgin Blue (remember them?) discount airline to a full-service player, with business class, lounges, and a fledgling international network. He’s also successfully managed a share registry including Singapore Airlines, Chinese groups HNA and Nanshan, Etihad Airways and Branson’s Virgin Group. Not a group of players who always play nice with each other.

Outgoing CEO John Borghetti and incoming CEO Paul Scurrah at the press conference.

Post Press Conference Update

Paul Scurrah gave nothing away about his future plans for the airline, whether it be privatisation, profitability, or route additions. He wants to (quite rightly) wait until he is in the job, and has consulted with his staff.

There was some gentle joshing from Borghetti about adding Rome to their list of destinations. That said, with no hint on future plans – the press conference was a little empty of content.

The Productivity Commission’s draft report on the Economic Regulation of Airports was raised, but with Borghetti suggesting they had not gone far enough, he reserved his opinion until the report has been more thoroughly digested. (sidebar – written submissions in reaction to the draft report are due on the 25 March – when the changing of the guard at Virgin Australia also occurs!)

John Borghetti was also tightlipped about his future plans. Other than taking his granddaughter to Disneyland, he gave away nothing about his future plans, except to joke that he might chat about possibilities with Disney while he’s in Hong Kong.

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