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Air New Zealand about to be Walmart-ised? – Ex Walmart CEO to head Air NZ

Air New Zealand about to be Walmart-ised? – Ex Walmart CEO to head Air NZ

Greg Foran, president and CEO of Walmart since 2014 has been announced as the new CEO of Air New Zealand. For this New Zealander taking up the positon in the first quarter of 2020, will mean a return home.

Foran’s appointment is regarded as a bit of a coup for the airline. Shares in Air NZ rose marginally on the news.

‘I am an incredibly proud Kiwi and to be given the job of nurturing and building on the legacy of an iconic company that represents the best of our nation at home and around the world really excites me.’

Greg Foran

Lets cut to the chase – what are his plans for Air NZ?

Well we don’t really know – too soon, but he has started on the right foot with this statement:

‘Air New Zealanders have an absolute love and passion for the business and their level of customer focus and care is one of the airline’s competitive advantages that I look forward to building on.’

‘I want Air New Zealand to continue to be at the forefront of its industry across the world and to deliver strong commercial results in the process.’

Greg Foran

Foran has a long history with supermarkets, but not so much with Airlines. His supermarket experience spans Woolworths Australia, China, and then Walmart International in China and Asia, and finally in the USA.

He is credited with turning Walmart in the US around. But the road to success was not without its bumps, including a fall in the company’s market capitalisation of US$21 billion in a single day! Just remember that Walmart does US$485 billion in annual sales.

Advice will be plentiful in New Zealand

Air NZ is a bit of a national, not to mention regional icon, and as an opinion piece on Stuff.co.nz details, there are a lot of pitfalls to be wary of:

  • The Regions – pull out or change a route, and you may just have alienated a significant proportion of the NZ public (given its population size)
  • Monopoly power – don’t abuse it or again you could make a bunch of Kiwi’s angry
  • Watch the politics – don’t get one or other of the political leaders offside
  • One bad safety video can end a career
  • Flight Shaming – the new challenge in ecologically-minded New Zealand
  • Auckland Airport – monopoly, say no more
  • The Koru Club lounges – too many guests or too little space?
  • 49% of the airline is government-owned, so all New Zealanders think they own it, and that they know how to run it better than you.

The airline is recognised as an industry leader for its innovation, environmental credentials and its respect for diversity in its workforce. On the minus side, it saw a 31 per cent fall in its annual profit in August

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Good luck!

Foran’s history at Walmart was about making stores and staff work more efficiently and increasing returns, rather than the usual slash and burn of store closures which seems the usual route in retail.

That bodes well for the airline, but we shall see.

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