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Virgin Australia: Qantas Chief Operating Officer jumps ship to Virgin

Virgin Australia: Qantas Chief Operating Officer jumps ship to Virgin

The AFR is reporting that Paul Jones, most recently the COO for Qantas from September of this year is moving to the re-born Virgin Australia as Chief Customer and Digital Officer from 2021.

Jones was involved in Qantas plans to outsource 2,500 baggage handling and associated jobs recently. A move that has landed Qantas in the courts since the Transport Workers Union has challenged the move.

Here’s an excerpt from his Linked In page:

‘Paul is the Chief Operating Officer for Qantas Airlines responsible for all operational areas including Tech crew (pilots), Engineering, Cabin Crew, Airports and Safety. Paul is the Qantas Airlines AOC holder.

Paul’s career at Qantas has involved leading a broad range of business units at the Executive General Manager level across Strategy, Commercial (Network planning, fleet strategy, pricing, revenue management), Operations (Cabin Crew, Airports and Integrated Operations Centre), Customer and Digital strategy the full P&L business units ($1.5bn) of Freight, Catering and Airports.

Prior to Qantas, Paul led the business integration of multiple Mars Petcare companies in Nashville, USA and played the chief of staff role for the externally appointed CEO. Paul also played a key leadership role in the Wrigley business integration following it’s acquisition by Mars, Inc. in partnership with Berkshire Hathaway.’

In fact he occupied a similar role at Qantas for 9 months back in 2017. Here’s another excerpt from his Linked In profile:

Executive Manager Customer and Digital Strategy
Mar 2017 – Nov 20179 months
Sydney, Australia

Responsible for the Airline (International and Domestic) Customer and Digital strategies, development of the airline’s digital and physical products including and mobile app, customer product experience (on-board, lounges etc.) and food & beverage.

The timing of his departure from Qantas is unknown, although ‘gardening leave’ until his move to Virgin would not be a surprise.

a can of soda and food on a table
Notorious chicken noodle catering for business incident in the last days of Virgin Australia, pre Bain Capital purchase.

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.

Interesting move.

There must be a reason to transfer from the countries largest airline to one that only has designs on about 20% of the market. Maybe customer and digital is his thing over the whole engineering operations stuff? Or is it his union-busting worker outsourcing experience that appeals to Ms Hrdlicka? According to the AFR, this is not the case and Hrdlicka has no intention of outsourcing because their ‘first preference is always to keep people in our teams’.

I havn’t done the timeline, but presumably Jones and Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka were once colleagues at Qantas at some stage.

Given Virgin Australia could do better in digital. They could start by giving us a points and status credits calculator at least. Customer experience – especially for premium passengers – will be a big decider in their success with business customers.

This could be a major appointment in determining the success of the airline quite a few years into the future.

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