But how can the board’s chairman, Goyder, exercise any discretion the board may have to claw back Joyce’s performance-based bonuses when he has regularly described him as the country’s best chief executive?
Inadvertently or not, Goyder has painted himself into a corner.
The board has the option to ask Joyce to leave the company ahead of his official departure date in November, but there is no suggestion of this. In a practical sense, an earlier departure of Joyce wouldn’t disadvantage Qantas given he is already leaving in a couple of months, and it would improve the optics.
Instead, the board opted for a cookie-cutter statement on Monday, saying it would review the allegations made by the ACCC. It also took issue with what it believed was an unfair comparison between the airline selling tickets to flights that had been cancelled and financial institutions that were previously found to have charged fees for no service.
Qantas says these customers were offered alternative flights or refunds. (Of course this would be cold comfort for the person who missed their business meeting, or their friend’s wedding, and had to navigate Qantas’ Byzantine refunds policy.)
The difficulty in dealing with Qantas when attempting to change flights or get refunds back in 2022 was legendary. Customers complained that it was near impossible to navigate the process online and call centre wait times ballooned out to 14 hours.
And then there are those who attempted to redeem credits for the same destinations, only to find the price had risen significantly.
The statement from the board on Monday said it recognised Qantas’ reputation had already been hit hard – and that was before the ACCC action. So the regulator’s legal action has just moved the dial for Goyder and Co from disastrous to Defcon 2.
Not that the board would be unaware of how furious its customers are about the way they had been treated. Over the past week, social media, mainstream media and talkback radio has been a flooded with complaints about Qantas.
Having misread the public sentiment on Qantas, the Albanese government is now having to deal with division within its own party’s ranks, with Queensland and South Australia now questioning the Qatar decision.
And the country’s largest travel agency, Flight Centre, has mounted an advertising campaign applying even more pressure to have the government reverse the decision.
But nothing puts a board under pressure like the share price. And on that front, Qantas’ stock has dipped more than 7 per cent over the past week, as shareholder goodwill for a record $2.5 billion profit clashes with the moral outrage about the airline’s perceived impudence.
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