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Qantas: Boss of International flys away

Qantas: Boss of International flys away

Come 1 September, Tino La Spina, head of the Qantas international division for the past year or so, will no longer be part of the flying Kangaroo team. He took over the job in May 2019, when the previous head, Alison Webster left the company after being disciplined for a blow-up with staff reporting to her.

La Spina will step down as CEO of Qantas International, after 14 years of service, including being the Qantas Group CFO.

COVID-19 related?

Qantas is presenting this as a reaction to COVID-19, which has rendered his position unnecessary since Qantas international won’t be flying until mid-2021 at the earliest, according to CEO, Alan Joyce.

On the other hand, I would have thought there is a shit-ton of work required to cover all contingency planning for the international division’s return to the sky. Where will it fly? Using what aircraft? With what COVID-19 associated protocols in place? With what degree of contact reducing service? How will it react to changing circumstances, etc, etc, but apparently not.

Qantas thinks it can just add these responsibilities to the CEO of Qantas Domestic, Andrew David, who already has responsibilities for Qantas Domestic and Qantas Freight.

“The COVID crisis is forcing us to rethink our business at every level. It’s increasingly clear that our international flights will be grounded until at least mid-2021 and it will take years for activity to return to what it was before. Under those circumstances, we’ve made the decision to consolidate the domestic and international business units under a single divisional CEO.

Tino has done a superb job throughout his 14 years at Qantas. He’s a talented executive who brings his trademark enthusiasm to every challenge. I know I speak for the rest of the executive team and for the Board in thanking him sincerely for the huge contribution he has made, particularly as Deputy CFO and then CFO for most of that time.”Alan Joyce, CEO Qantas Group

Given Joyce’s pay packet last year of some AU$24 million including bonuses, dispensing with one of the 4 top executive salaries might represent a multi-million dollar saving. Having just lost AU$2 billion last financial year, I am sure they are looking in every back corner for ways to save money – in addition to the COVID-19 related three month salary suspension and the 85% pay cut the executive floor has already taken. Not to mention the ‘no bonus’ position Qantas took in the 2020 financial year, or the reduction to 65% of Alan Joyce’s former salary.

Pushed, or getting out while the going is good?

The question becomes did Tino jump or was he pushed? While being pushed makes for a much more colourful story, I suspect he has jumped.

La Spina was regarded as a contender for the CEO position, replacing Alan Joyce. However, Joyce has agreed to stay on until 2023 when it is through the pandemic will be ‘over’ – fat chance. If you were an ambitious executive would you sit on your hands for three years, while you waited for your CEO to move on?

Even though employment opportunities are not great in the airline industry at the moment, it might be the right time to move to an allied industry, or take advantage of the numerous executive re-organisations that will undoubtedly occur around the airline world during the recovery from this pandemic.

a seat and a chair in a plane

2PAXfly Takeout

This is another timely reminder to wear your seatbelt when seated. Holding you close to your seat will protect you from the sort of injuries sustained on this flight, when unsecured passengers flew to the ceiling of the aircraft, and then came crashing down once the ‘drop’ ceased.

The hope will be that this is an anomaly – a ‘freak accident’ in casual parlance. If it is a systemic error either mechanical or electronic, then this is a larger concern for the airlines that fly Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft. Let’s hope it isn’t. If it is, it will pile on the woes to Boeing’s existing stack.

Deck chairs / Titanic ?

Probably not, given the financial position of Qantas. He’s only been in the position for a little over a year, and the last 6 of those months have been dramatically affected by COVID-19. Maybe the position was not for him, and a return to CFO somewhere will suit him better.

We wish him well.

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