FLIGHT PLAN ll

Five years af­ter tak­ing over Qan­tas, chief ex­ec­u­tive Alan Joyce says his tough de­ci­sions are set to pay off

The Australian - The Deal - - Front Page - JOYCE’S COURSE FOR QAN­TAS BY STEVE CREEDY

THE CABLE GIRL: ONLINE START-UPS SI­MON MARAIS: CON­TRAR­IAN IN­VESTOR

There must have been a time when Alan Joyce won­dered what he had got him­self into. His ap­point­ment five years ago as chief ex­ec­u­tive of Qan­tas came in a decade of con­stant shock in the avi­a­tion in­dus­try. And as he took over, in Novem­ber, 2008, the air­line in­dus­try was about to be rocked by the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

“All we need now is a plague of lo­custs,” he ob­served drily in 2009. By Oc­to­ber the fol­low­ing year, a plague of lo­custs had duly ar­rived.

The fresh-faced Ir­ish­man re­calls the com­ments with a laugh as he reaches his fifth an­niver­sary in the job. He has weath­ered a global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, vol­canic erup­tions, an Air­bus A380 en­gine ex­plo­sion, in­dus­trial ac­tion, in­creas­ing com­pe­ti­tion from for­eign play­ers on in­ter­na­tional routes and Vir­gin Aus­tralia on do­mes­tic routes as well as the air­line’s first fi­nan­cial loss since pri­vati­sa­tion. His sur­vival in this tough en­vi­ron­ment, while at the same time cop­ing with the per­sonal cri­sis of ag­gres­sive prostate can­cer, demon­strates an un­der­ly­ing tough­ness as well as a savvy tac­ti­cal flair that was ev­i­dent in his un­prece­dented move two years ago to ground the air­line and bring a crip­pling in­dus­trial dis­pute to a head.

He has lost none of his en­thu­si­asm and re­mains con­vinced that he will achieve his goal of set­ting up Qan­tas for a sus­tain­able fu­ture with all its ma­jor units prof­itable and main­line in­ter­na­tional grow­ing again — sub­ject, of course, to the usual caveat about un­pre­dictable ex­ter­nal shocks.

But his self-pro­fessed “glass-half-full’’ op­ti­mism makes way for a se­ri­ous side as he out­lines what he sees as the hard­est chal­lenge of his first five years, the sig­nif­i­cant re­struc­tur­ing he saw as es­sen­tial to the air­line’s sur­vival.

“And that’s not one event; it’s an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of things that were prob­a­bly there,’’ he says. “Hav­ing to make peo­ple re­dun­dant, pulling off routes — it’s bloody hard. It’s not the thing that

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