Virgin Australia: Who’s in and who’s out on the executive floor
New Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has been mining her contacts book to replace many of the senior executive team at the reborn mid-market domestic airline.
“Virgin Australia has signalled a return to its mid-market heartland, targeting value-conscious corporate travellers, small and medium businesses, premium leisure travellers, and holidaymakers who are after a great value airfare and better service.”Jayne Hrdlicka, Virgin Australia Chief Executive Officer
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Prior to the conclusion of the purchase of the airline by Bain Capital, the new owners repeatedly confirmed that they would be sticking with the old executive team, including then CEO Paul Scurrah. This assurance and the denials that Jayne Hrdlicka was to become CEO of the revived company helped shore up the support of many stakeholders including staff and their respective unions.
It didn’t take long after the sale concluded for everything to change, especially the announcement that Jayne Hrdlicka would not be board chairperson, but in fact CEO and GM of the reborn mid-market targeting airline.
The exodus started with former CEO Paul Scurrah on the sale date of 16 November 2020. He is currently a non-executive director of RPM Global, a supplier of technology and training to the mining industry.
Ex CFO Keith Neate has also left the building having only started at Virgin Australia in September 2019. He is being replaced by David Marr, most recently the CFO of supermarket giant, Woolworths.
It looks like 13 is an unlucky number for ex-legal and risk officer Dayna Field. That’s how long she has been working for Virgin in one legal-related position or another. Her replacement is Susan Schneider, an internal promotion for the former GM Legal.
Cameron Stone, former CIO, originally came from Aurizon, old stamping ground for Paul Scurrah. Cameron is also heading for the exit door at Virgin Australia.
The other exit is John MacLeod, who will be taking his gold watch once a replacement for his chief commercial officer position is found.
Hrdlicka says that those leaving didn’t do anything wrong and are all ‘leaving of their own accord’ – yeah, sure Jayne.
“We have made significant changes to the business and have real momentum despite the current aviation industry challenges. We’ve re-opened lounges in major cities, we’ve matched Qantas’ Frequent Flyer status challenge and included Qantas’ OneWorld partner airlines, and we’ve increased flexibility for our customers with fee-free flight changes as our domestic borders remain uncertain. While far from finished, we are off to a good start.”Jayne Hrdlicka, Virgin Australia Chief Executive Officer
New Executive leadership team
CEO Hrdlicka has most recently occupied positions at a2 Milk, Qantas/Jetstar, and airline owner Bain group. It looks like contacts built up during that time have informed some of the choices for her new leadership team.
Here is the new team:
- Jayne Hrdlicka, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director [ formerly a2 Milk and Jetstar ]
- Stuart Aggs, Chief Operations Officer [ at Virgin since 2004, various roles ]
- Lisa Burquest, Chief People Officer [ formerly a2 Milk Company ]
- Alistair Hartley, Chief Transformation Officer [ formerly Director of Strategy, International Airlines Group ]
- Paul Jones, Chief Customer and Digital Officer [ formerly COO Qantas ]
- John MacLeod, Chief Commercial Officer (retiring)
- David Marr, Chief Financial Officer [ formerly CFO Woolworths ]
- Nick Rohrlach, CEO Velocity [ formerly co-CEO Jetstar Japan ]
- Susan Schneider, Chief Legal and Risk Officer [ formerly GM Legal and Compliance ]
- Moksha Watts, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer [ VP Corporate Affairs & Sustainability, Arnott’s Group ]
The aviation industry has a difficult road ahead when it comes to sustainability. It’s going to require a relative revolution in technology, with ‘electric planes’ or hydrogen planes, or some form of jet engine that doesn’t require a carbon based fuel. And that is going to require the development of an alternative to jet engines probably.
It’s a big ask. It will take time to develop.
This move to home grown and manufactured SAF is a first step – maybe even a baby step in a very long road of innovation. In the long run, US$200 million won’t even touch the sides.
Every new CEO has a right to surround themselves with a team that supports them and their vision for an organisation. The sticking point in this transition is the deception by various Bain spokesmen that the pre-sale Virgin Australia team would lead the re-born organisation after the sale. It appears that was never true.
Deception is never a good corporate value to lead an organisation into the future.
Still, the proof will be in the pudding. Any team would find the current situation a challenge, what with pandemic and border closure uncertainty, not to mention the introduction of the new player REX into the domestic airline mix.
Alan Joyce from Qantas may well be right – only 2 of the players will survive. Will Virgin Australia be one of them under the reign of this new leadership team?
What did you say?