Alan Joyce leaves Qantas: Outrage over CEO’s golden handshake as he retires to enjoy a penthouse with views of the Sydney Opera House
Alan Joyce is walking away from Qantas with bulging pockets but also amid the loud calls of critics who want to strip him of a reported $24million golden handshake.
In a shock move Mr Joyce said he would step down as Qantas CEO on Monday, two months ahead of his previously announced departure date in November as the national carrier is buffeted by accusations of dodgy conduct and souring customer sentiment.
After 15 years in the top job Mr Joyce will be taking home a ‘golden handshake’ of $24million, which one of his old foes has described as the ‘swindle of the century’.
On top of that Mr Joyce in June sold his palatial home in the exclusive Sydney suburb of Mosman for a price rumoured to be well above $20million, having shelled out $19million for it early last year with husband Shane Lloyd.
The couple will not be cast out on the street however, as they have ‘downsized’ to a $9.25million penthouse bought earlier this year and next to one they already own at the Cove Apartments in Sydney’s harbourside The Rocks district.
Alan Joyce will walk away from Qantas with millions in bonuses despite announcing his retirement early amid scandals plaguing the airline
To fill up any idle hours of Mr Joyce’s retirement at age 57 the pair can also retreat to their weekender at Sydney’s glamorous Palm Beach, which cost $5.25million in 2015.
There were no happy farewell wishes from Labor Senator Tony Sheldon, who as boss of the Transport Workers Union locked horns with Mr Joyce over the sacking of 1,700 baggage handlers that the Federal Court ruled was illegal in 2022.
Senator Sheldon on Tuesday said the Qantas board and shareholders ‘have an obligation to knock Mr Joyce’s bonus off’.
‘If the board allows Mr Joyce to walk away with $24million after illegally sacking 1,700 people, gouging customers and while subject to an ACCC prosecution, it will be the swindle of the century,’ Senator Sheldon said.
Corporate watchdog the ACCC announced on Monday it was pursuing Qantas for a fine of around $250million for selling 10,000 flights that had already been cancelled in mid 2022.
Mr Joyce may have more time to enjoy his newly acquired $9.5million penthouse at the Cove Apartments in Sydney’s harbourside The Rocks district
According to Senator Sheldon Mr Joyce’s legacy was making Qantas ‘synonymous with low pay, insecure work, illegal sackings and consumer rip-offs’.
Australian Shareholders’ Association chief executive Rachel Waterhouse also called for Mr Joyce’s bonuses to be withheld and reconsidered in light of the ACCC investigation.
‘It’s a reputational issue and the board is responsible for managing that,’ Waterhouse said.
‘There’s deterioration in the brand and also the share price. They might need to make some decisions to put bonuses on hold or reconsider their remuneration.’
Senator Sheldon went a step further demanding that Qantas chair Richard Goyder should be the ‘next to go’.
‘The board has backed Joyce’s behaviour at every step and must be held equally accountable for the disgraceful state of the company,’ Senator Sheldon wrote.
On the popular Qantas Customers Hints, Tips, Questions and Gripes Facebook page, which has almost 50,000 members, Senator Sheldon’s sentiments were echoed.
Labor Senator and former Transport Union Workers union boss Tony Sheldon wants Mr Joyce stripped of his extra pay and has also demanded the airline’s chair step down
‘Excellent news that Joyce is leaving 14 years and 364 days too late. He can look back on some wonderful achievements: How to turn a flagship premier product into a budget airline and still charge premium prices,’ one poster wrote.
‘How to destroy customer service values, alienate a great workforce and trash a world renowned brand, all with the backing of a board that allowed him to do it, but seemingly didn’t realise what was happening on their watch.
‘The fish always rots from the head.’
So constant and vehement have the denunciations of Qantas been on the page in recent days that the admin stepped in last week to remove them.
‘I feel the tone of this group has swayed away from its original intention, being a place to ask questions and source information about Qantas related issues, give praise when things are great, and vent when things go wrong,’ she wrote.
‘So for the next few days I’ll be deleting any new posts or comments that relate to the Senate hearing, the ACCC action, the government’s blocking of Qatar flights, or anything else that doesn’t directly relate to travel on a Qantas or codeshare flight.
Mr Joyce and his husband Shane Lloyd seen at a 2017 awards ceremony held in Sydney
‘If this frustrates anyone, you could either start up your own discussion group, or head over to the Qantas Sucks group, who are very active at the moment.’
Mr Joyce has his defenders however, including Editor in Chief of AirlineRatings.com Geoff Thomas, who said he had done a ‘very, very good job’.
He told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Tuesday that although the board and shareholders could withdraw Mr Joyce’s bonuses, they won’t.
‘There’s lots of things wrong with Qantas right now and Alan has become the fall guy if you like for those but when history looks on him in a few years’ time they will actually look far more kindly than at the moment,’ Mr Thomas told 3AW morning host Neil Mitchell.
‘I think Allan has seen he has become the focus of some of the issues that have befallen the airline.’
Mr Thomas argued that Mr Joyce had taken the Qantas share price from 99cents when he took over to between five and six dollars, which was a good thing for all the superannuation funds that invest in them.
Although the $2.7billion in public help had caused a lot of resentment, Mr Thomas said other governments bailed out their airlines to a much greater extent, with German carrier Lufthansa getting $15billion.
Qantas passengers were often left seething by cancelled or long delayed flights post-Covid but again Mr Thomas said it was worse elsewhere.
In early 2021 there was an egg and toilet paper attack on Qantas CEO Alan Joyce’s $19million harbourside mansion
‘It was tremendously upsetting for everybody but it was chaotic all around the world,’ he said.
Although Mr Joyce had become ‘a very divisive character thanks to the union movement’, Mr Thomas said he had been given a very difficult environment to work in with new ‘green fields airlines’ emerging as cut-rate competitors.
‘It’s been an enormous challenge, he’s actually done a very, very good job,’ Mr Thomas said.
Qantas has been on the defensive since a Senate hearing last week revealed the airline was sitting on at least $370million of unused flight credits from the Covid pandemic period that were set to expire at the end of December.
On Monday Qantas announced that it would scrap the expiry date.
It also issued a grovelling apology for the ACCC action.
‘The ACCC’s allegations come at a time when Qantas’s reputation has already been hit hard on several fronts,’ an airline spokesperson said.
‘We want the community to know that we hear and understand their disappointment.
‘We know it will take time to repair. And we are absolutely determined to do that.’
Questions have also been raised in the past month over the political influence Mr Joyce exerts after the government announced it would block rival Qatar from competing on Qantas routes into Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The Albanese government has defended the decision as being in the national interest.
However, critics have wondered if they might have been swayed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s son being given a much-coveted pass to the invite-only Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.
Qantas has also come out as an unabashed cheerleader for Labor’s proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament with planes being painted to promote the Yes case and even free flights being provided to those advocating for it.
Even the good news of Qantas announcing a $2.5billion profit last Thursday has raised questions about whether it should hand back any of the $2.7billion it received in government support during the Covid shutdowns.
Despite making the whopping profit Qantas is also not paying any dividends to shareholders this year as the money is being spent on a share buyback worth $500million in February.
Some of those shares may well have part of $10.8million the airline on Friday announced it had given to Mr Joyce as part of his leaving package.
Mr Joyce reportedly sold a large tranche of his shares.
Although Mr Joyce has weathered most barbs with an even temper the sale of his Mosman property might reflect criticism that followed him home.
In early 2021 the property was plastered by eggs, flour and toilet paper thrown at it.