Pressure is mounting for Qantas chairman Richard Goyder to stand down, as investors, consumers and now pilots call for heads to roll over the airline’s reputation crisis.
Qantas pilots, via the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), have sounded off against Mr Goyder, saying they have lost all confidence in him and his board of directors.
AIPA president Tony Lucas said the union has written to Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson informing her of the pilots’ “unprecedented” position.
“Richard Goyder has overseen one of the most damaging periods in Qantas history which has included the illegal sacking of 1,700 workers, allegations of illegally marketing cancelled flights, and a terribly managed return to operations after Covid-19,” Mr Lucas said.
“The morale of pilots has never been lower. We have totally lost confidence in Mr Goyder and his board.”
He said the national carrier desperately needs a culture reset, but that cannot happen if Mr Goyder remains chairman.
“Despite overseeing the destruction of the Qantas brand, Goyder last week accepted a near $100,000 pay rise – taking his pay to $750,000 – while staff are expected to accept a two-year wage freeze,” Mr Lucas continued.
“This is a galling and tone-deaf decision.”
In a first for AIPA, it joined similar calls from the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association and the Transport Workers Union for Mr Goyder’s head.
It comes after Qantas’ freshly minted CEO Vanessa Hudson began her tenure with two apologies – first to nearly 1700 workers Qantas illegally sacked during the pandemic, then to customers for the airline’s recent track record.
In her apology to customers, Ms Hudson said the airline knew it “let you down in many ways”, and understood customers’ frustrations.
“We haven’t delivered the way we should have. And we’ve often been hard to deal with,” she said, promising to restoring its reputation.
“We understand we need to earn back your trust not with what we say, but with what we do and how we behave.”
After Friday’s second apology, Qantas announced a further $80 million of spending on customer “pain points” this financial year – on top of $150 million already earmarked by the airline for “customer initiatives”.
The extra $80 million would be used to help fund more training and resourcing of Qantas call centres, more Frequent Flyer seats, and reviews of customer policies and quality of in-flight catering.
The investment will be funded off the back of the company’s record $2.47 billion profit.
The new focus on customers flagged by Ms Hudson in her apology to workers in early September reportedly also had the backing of Mr Goyder.
Ms Hudson revealed she spoke regularly to Mr Goyder who was “really supportive” of her focus on and investment in customers, The Australian reports.
But Qantas’ critics say there is little need to spend millions on reviewing policies when the source of the stink around the flying kangaroo were clear.
Yet, even as criticism mounts, Mr Goyder has not only refused to quit but has stated his confidence in his ability to deal with Qantas’ issues.
In his first broadcast interview since the ACCC sued Qantas for allegedly selling tickets on already-cancelled flights, the chairman said he has the support of the board and major investors to stay.
“While I retain that confidence I’ll get to work and do the things we need to do to deal with some of the issues we’ve got at the moment,” Mr Goyder told The World Today, the ABC reports.
“And the latest read I’ve got is that people want me to continue to do the role.”
He said shareholders were “very supportive” of the work the airline was doing to recover from the pandemic.
“On the customer side if things, we know we’ve got some work to do. We know we’ve let people down,” Mr Goyder said.
He was careful not to comment on the ACCC’s allegations, but denied any wrongdoing.
But Mr Lucas said Qantas, a “symbol of national pride and trust”, needed more than massive investments into policies to restore its reputation or to thrive again.
“For our great national carrier to flourish, it needs leadership from a Board that understands the value of its employees, respects its customers and can win back the trust of the nation.”