Emirates boss Tim Clark says Alan Joyce’s Qantas exit was unfair

Emirates president Sir Tim Clark believes the treatment of Alan Joyce was “unfair”.

The longstanding Qantas chief executive suddenly stepped down from the top job two months early in September last year amid a string of controversies for the airline. He had initially announced in May he would retire in November.

“Alan was determined, and I know Alan, he was highly respected in the business [and] in our industry, he led many of the thought processes and the way the airline industry developed, not just Qantas,” Sir Tim told news.com.au when visiting Australia last week.

“He was a major contributor, and he was well liked and respected by his peer group. To see what happened to him, I thought was a little bit unfair to be quite honest.

“He was utterly and totally devoted to the commercial short and long term interests of the airline. His whole life was dedicated to that.”

Qantas and Mr Joyce faced intense criticism for the handling of Covid credits, the consumer watchdog’s allegations that the airline had sold tickets for “ghost flights”, and accusations the national carrier was blocking competition via slot hoarding and opposing Qatar Airways’ request for extra flights into Australia, which Mr Joyce denied.

Emirates and Qantas have been in partnership since 2013, meaning customers and frequent flyers of both airlines have access to a joint international network and rewards seats.

Sir Tim said Emirates was committed to continue the partnership despite Mr Joyce’s departure and a raft of senior leadership changes at Qantas – including new chief executive Vanessa Hudson taking over.

“We’ve had engagement with them over the last couple of days and before, and she is laser focused on restoring the reputation. And it’s not just lip service,” Sir Tim said.

He said Ms Hudson, who joined Qantas in 1994, knew how the company worked and what needed to be done to restore its glory.

Sir Tim has worked in the industry since 1972 and has been president of Dubai-based airline Emirates since 2003.

In order to restore the airline’s reputation, he said, the airline’s products, on-time performance, ground products, and loyalty program all had to be beacons of success.

“Her focus is there and I think it will come, but I am sort of sad that what happened, happened” he said. “Covid was not of Qantas’ doing. It didn’t bring it on itself and I look at Melbourne, shut down for as long as it was … when the rest of the world was open.

“How do you run an airline when you can’t even fly between your states?”

Sir Tim believed that if Covid hadn’t happened, Mr Joyce would still be leading the airline and Qantas “would be very strong”.

He also said Qantas faced more scrutiny than many other Australian companies in other industries.

“It’s all about Qantas, Qantas, Qantas and if Qantas coughs, everybody jumps,” he said, adding the airline industry was notorious for its difficulties and had done a good job under difficult circumstances.

He concluded: “For us, as our partner in this whole operation, we’re vested in the strength of Qantas, we’re vested in its reputation, and we remain confident that going forward with Vanessa’s team we will be in good shape with them. We’ve got some great ideas, great things coming.”

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