Air New Zealand, Etihad CEOs join Virgin Australia board

By David Flynn, January 21 2014
Air New Zealand, Etihad CEOs join Virgin Australia board

Air New Zealand CEO ­Chris Luxon and Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan will both add their muscle to the Virgin Australia boardroom, dialling up the heat on Qantas in the ongoing battle for domestic market share.

Air NZ, Etihad and Singapore Airlines have all been offered a seat on the board of Virgin's parent company Virgin Australia Holdings following their role in raising $350 million in capital for the airline last month.

Each airline holds an equity stake in Virgin ranging from 20% to 24.5%, and between them the three airlines now hold almost 65% in Virgin.

The announcement that Air New Zealand's Luxon would take a seat on the board of Virgin Australia came within 24 hours of Etihad's Hogan revealing he would join the board.

"I am an Australian. I know the market. I’ve been in aviation since 1975. Maybe I can add some value" Hogan told The Australian Financial Review.

Overnight, Air New Zealand confirmed that the Kiwi carrier "currently intends for CEO Christopher Luxon to take up the seat it has been offered on the Virgin Australia Board".

That leaves Singapore Airlines, which is playing its cards close to its chest.

"This is a matter for the Virgin Australia board to assess" a Singapore Airlines spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller. "From our standpoint, we will keep our options open."

However, it's not expected that Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong will join the top-level triumvirate. One of Goh's executives, or potentially Sydney-based regional vice president Subhas Menon, is likely to take the post, although the airline could also nominate an independent representative.

Virgin Australia has seven board members including chairman Neil Chatfield and CEO John Borghetti.

A Virgin Australia spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller that the matter of if the three airline-based board seats would be in addition to the board's make-up or would see some  current board members replaced was "something that is currently being worked through"

Virgin's board convenes 12 times a year with meetings usually held in Sydney and Brisbane, "however we often hold them in other cities both in Australia and overseas" the spokesperson said.

The first board meeting for 2014 will be ­mid-February, ahead of the airline reporting its financial results for July-December 2013 on February 28th.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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