Qantas appoints first female CEO to succeed Alan Joyce

Jetstar Airways / Wikimedia

The Qantas Group announced that Vanessa Hudson will replace Alan Joyce as the group’s CEO and managing director when Joyce retires in November 2023. 

Qantas’ chief financial officer Hudson has held various executive roles within the Qantas Group for more than 28 years, including chief customer officer and senior vice president for Qantas across the Americas and New Zealand.

Hudson will be the company’s 13th CEO in 103 years of operation. She is expected to continue in her current role while also being CEO designate and joining the group’s board.

Qantas said that an announcement regarding a new CFO will be made in the months ahead.

“Vanessa has a deep understanding of this business after almost three decades in a range of roles both onshore and offshore, across commercial, customer and finance. She has a huge amount of airline experience and she’s an outstanding leader,” chairman Richard Goyder said in a press statement, adding that the appointment came after a rigorous selection process. 

“For the past five years Vanessa has had a direct hand in shaping our strategy as a member of the Group Management Committee, and her handling of the finance and treasury portfolio during the COVID crisis was outstanding. She also led the fleet selection process in 2022 for the renewal of our domestic jet aircraft over the next decade,” Goyder continued.

“It’s an absolute honor to be asked to lead the national carrier. This is an exceptional company full of incredibly talented people and it’s very well positioned for the future. My focus will be delivering for those we rely on and who rely on us – our customers, our employees, our shareholders and the communities we serve,” Hudson said on her appointment. 

Chair pays tribute to Joyce

Goyder also paid tribute to Alan Joyce’s 15-year leadership of the airline. Joyce is currently the longest-serving CEO of a major Australian company.

“Much of the credit for the bright future in front of Qantas goes to Alan. He’s faced more than his fair share of challenges as CEO and he’s managed them exceptionally well – from the GFC, to record oil prices, to intense competitive pressures and the COVID crisis,” Goyder said in the same statement.

“The company was restructured to deal with a number of external shocks and Alan led it to several record profits. He oversaw a lot of investment in aircraft, lounges, the creation of Jetstar, our cornerstone partnership with Emirates and innovations like the Perth-London route and Project Sunrise,” Goyder added.

Joyce said he had extended his time as the group’s CEO through the pandemic recovery at the board’s request.

“At the Board’s request, I extended my time as CEO to see through the COVID recovery plan, so now that we’re on the other side of that crisis it’s a logical time for me to step down. There’s still a lot I want to deliver in the next six months and at the top of that list is ensuring a smooth handover to Vanessa, who I’m sure will excel in the role,” Joyce said.

Hudson, who has a Bachelor of Business and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, joined Qantas in 1994. 

In February 2018, Vanessa was appointed to the role of Chief Customer Officer and became a member of the Group Management Committee.

In October 2019, Vanessa became the Group’s Chief Financial Officer and held this portfolio through the COVID crisis. Qantas said that careful management through this period – including equity raising, debt raising and asset sales – saw the company make it through the crisis.

Vanessa Hudson career summary:


2019 – Present: Chief Financial Officer

2018 – 2019: Chief Customer Officer

2016 – 2018: Executive Manager, Sales and Distribution

2013 – 2016: Senior Executive Vice President, The Americas

2010 – 2013: Executive Manager, Commercial Planning

2005 – 2010: Executive Manager, Product Services

2001 – 2005: General Manager, Inflight Services

1997 – 2001: Catering Product Manager

1995 – 1997: Financial Controller, Commercial Division

1994 – 1995: Internal Audit Supervisor

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu

1992 – 1994: External Audit

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