Vanessa Hudson to replace Alan Joyce as Qantas CEO

Vanessa Hudson will become Qantas CEO in November.
Vanessa Hudson will become CEO in November. Photo credit: Supplied/Qantas / Getty Images

Australia's flagship carrier, Qantas Airways Ltd, named its finance chief Vanessa Hudson as its new chief executive officer, making her the first woman to lead the century-old airline.

Hudson will succeed Alan Joyce, who will retire in November, the company said.

Hudson, who joined Qantas 28 years ago, had held several senior roles there, including chief customer officer and senior vice president for the Americas and New Zealand.

"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," Qantas Chairman Richard Goyder said.

Shares of Qantas opened down 2.5 percent on Tuesday; the broader index was down 0.17 percent.

Hudson's appointment makes her one of the few female executives leading an airline, including Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.

"Vanessa has been market-facing as CFO since October 2019, which will have prepared her well for the very public role as Qantas CEO," RBC Capital Markets analyst Owen Birrell said in a note.

Succession plans

Joyce, 56, served as Qantas CEO for more than 14 years and helped navigate the airline through the COVID-19 pandemic, fluctuating fuel prices, and competition.

The company swung to a record first-half profit from a loss this year, as raging travel demand from a population shaking off years of pandemic restrictions jacked up fares and profits.

"This transition is happening at a time when the Qantas Group is extremely well positioned," Goyder said.

Qantas said Hudson would continue in her current role until taking over as Qantas' 13th CEO at the 2023 annual general meeting.

"An announcement on a new CFO will be made in the months ahead," Qantas added.