Qantas CEO Alan Joyce on flying through, and out of, the coronavirus

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce looks beyond COVID-19, to a future where borders re-open, and competition remains commonplace.

By Chris Chamberlin , May 1 2020
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce on flying through, and out of, the coronavirus

Few industries are as heavily impacted by the coronavirus as aviation. With borders closed, various ‘stay at home’ orders in place, uncertainty around when most travel will resume – and of course, many households having less money available to spend on luxuries like flying, in any case – 2020 isn’t a great time to be running an airline.

But despite these challenges, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce is optimistic that the airline, and travel more broadly, will recover.

“If this period of isolation has taught us nothing else, it’s how much we value seeing people and places: and that’s why aviation will remain so important,” Joyce shared via LinkedIn.

“A recent survey of our Frequent Flyers showed around 85 per cent are keen to travel again once they’re able to,” he added: a strong statistic, given that Qantas Frequent Flyer has approximately 13.2 million members, or more than half the population of Australia.

Even so, to help demand bounce back – and keep its passengers not only flying, but flying with Qantas – the airline is granting a year-long status extension for those whose frequent flyer tier would have otherwise lapsed between March 2020 and February 2021.

Members of the Qantas Club airport lounge program are seeing those memberships extended by six months: recognising that even for those who continue to fly, all airport lounges remain closed across the country by government order, which extends more broadly to sit-down venues like cafes, bars and restaurants, except for take-away.

Read: Qantas adds six months to Qantas Club memberships

The impact of coronavirus on airfares

Some have widely speculated that the coronavirus will place pressure on affordable airfares even after the situation subsides, particularly as airlines look to recover losses and rebuild their balance sheets after the seismic shock of the virus has finished leaving its mark.

However, Joyce sees the situation differently, being mindful not to send airfares skywards, which would further deter would-be travellers from flying after restrictions are lifted.

“There will be lots of low fares,” Joyce confirms. “Airlines will be keen to stimulate travel demand to get their people and aircraft back to work and restart their cashflow pipelines, repairing the damage done by the devastating and sudden drop in revenue.”

“That’s good news for consumers because it means plenty of good deals.”

Competition in Australian skies

More broadly, airline competition in Australia also helps to keep airfares at more affordable prices, but with Qantas’ arch rival Virgin Australia now up for sale, the shape of our future aviation industry is yet to be determined.

Joyce believes that regardless of the outcome of that administration process, aviation in Australia will remain competitive.

“The Australian domestic market has huge potential. And for that reason, this is never going to be a one airline town – or it wouldn’t be one for long,” he says. “Stiff competition has made Qantas better over the years and we don’t want that to stop now.”

One of the best examples of the benefits of competition saw Qantas and Virgin Australia battle for business and corporate travellers on the country's busy east-west routes, with the resulting 'transcontinental turf war' completely transforming the premium travel experience in just a handful of years.

Read more: How Qantas vs Virgin created the world's best domestic business class

Competition can also be thanked for the opening of the Qantas Premium Lounge Entry facility at Brisbane’s domestic airport, being a private check-in and security screening space for lounge-eligible travellers, as opened years after Virgin Australia first debuted its own similar Premium Entry service in Sydney, and later, Brisbane.

In any case, Joyce sees domestic travel re-opening well before Australians are jetting off overseas, even if the proposed trans-Tasman travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand eventuates.

“We have to be careful not to take the brakes off too early,” he suggests, but when domestic travel restrictions are lifted, it’ll be “great news for our local tourism industry, with more people holidaying in Australia to start with.”

Also read: The Qantas Boeing 747 – looking back on 50 years of flying

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 495

Now there's a man who can run an airline.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 301

Agree 100%. I also think Paul Scurrah is a very intelligent man and would like to be given time to show his full potential and not cleaning up John Borghetti's mess.

Let's hope he can keep competition strong.

01 May 2020

Total posts 3

He was able to cash in because of lower fuel prices. Qantas was in trouble because of high fuel prices and interest rates. The fall of fuel prices and interest rates made Qantas profitable and NOT the CEO. He does not deserve the massive amount he earns.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2017

Total posts 22

So if it's so easy to be a profitable airline with low fuel prices, then why was VA such a basket case?? I think you've got to give credit where it's due - Qantas has globally been a standout airline for profit and share price growth.

01 May 2020

Total posts 3

Qantas has been always a great airline, long before the current CEO. Low fuel prices and low-interest rates and a massive increase in air travel caused the profit increase. Nobody deserves the massive pay he gets, nobody!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 166

Thanks, Chris.

I'm not one to get stuck into AJ, (yes, he did leave me high and dry in the USA). He thinks ahead and he is running the business well, hard, but well. And, as the national carrier, we need to keep the Roo as something to be proud of.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 158

I don't understand does everyone just forget what Qantas was - it hasn't even been a decade since they moved on from their heavy losses..it's like Qantas is viewed as this golden child in aviation and no one else can manage an airline but AJ. A lot of staff hated and still have to live with his decisions of the past.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

27 Nov 2017

Total posts 22

Perhaps point out the other CEOs that have delivered an airline like AJ. Some decisions are not always popular, particularly to staff, but they set up sustainable and profitable business that ultimately reward those staff with jobs. Perhaps Virgin staff were indeed happier than Qantas staff, but look at their situation now.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 67

I am prepared to back AJ and Q to the hilt assuming he can persuade the Victorian premier to ‘ release' us from bondage regardless of this pollies' good intentions. Was due to fly to Europe in a week's time: cancelled flights, cancelled tours, hassles getting credit vouchers and a trip to FNQ pending in August, so any CEO making representations on our behalf to let us flying again has got my vote.

Will the airlines also be changing the HEPA filters for every flight? Or do they have a certain number of hours before changing?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1221

“There will be lots of low fares,” Joyce confirms.

Folks, we heard it here on ET and will hold him to his word.

Reg
Reg

American Airlines - AAdvantage

20 Jun 2012

Total posts 25

Dan22, yes there are some very short memories around - reminds me of investors that punt on a promise of a sample drilling from a company with an apartment address and one vehicle that does not deliver.....and the same investors do the same thing 2 years later....with the same result.

Anyway, he can do no wrong in some eyes and to his credit, he has turned things around for Qantas, but it is not my favourite airline for top level service. If I have to fly OW I'll use many other carriers (except AA) where possible.

29 Jan 2020

Total posts 16

The best thing we Australians can do for the travel industry, when Intra and inter state travel is allowed, is to go visit our great country, and support all those tourist related businesses doing it tough right now!

For those that we're going overseas, holiday here this year, and look at next year for os!


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