Mistakes, motherhood and misogyny: Industry responds to the appointment of new Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson

Mistakes, motherhood and misogyny: Industry responds to the appointment of new Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson

The announcement of new Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson has been welcomed by many in the industry, with some calling the appointment well overdue.

But, it’s an announcement that almost never happened.

In the worst faux pas since the Oscar’s of 2017 when hosts named the wrong movie as best picture, the wrong candidate was seemingly announced as Alan Joyce’s replacement.

Qantas’ chairman Richard Goyder told the waiting media he thought Olivia Worth was the best person to take the company forward, before announcing Vanessa Hudson as the airline’s new captain.

Qantas’ La La Land moment.

Once Goyder returned from La La Land and announced the correct name, praise came from both friends and foes.

Air New Zealand’s CEO Greg Foran told Travel Weekly he had contacted Hudson following her appointment.


From the other red corner, Virgin Australia’s CEO Jayne Hrdlicka also praised Hudson’s appointment.

Labelled a classic “evolution after revolution,” Hudson had always been one of the leading contenders for the top job.

She’s been at Qantas since 1994, meaning she knows the brand possibly better than anyone else in the company, and as CFO, more importantly, she also knows its financial situation.

Luminis Partners executive chairman, Simon Mordant, worked with Hudson as a corporate adviser raising capital during Covid-19. He told The Australian, Hudson will be a great leader, and will also be different to Alan Joyce.

“She moved quickly and decisively,” Mordant told The Australian.

“She assembled a team. They did the analysis as to what the options were, and how much capital was required. She did that in a very difficult environment. So she was very calm throughout. She’s a very humble person, but also a very empathetic person,” he said.

Panahi finds a way to make it all about race.

Unsurprisingly, Rita Panahi’s response to the appointment centred around the airline’s perceived ‘wokeness.’

The “Herald Sun columnist who flies Qantas a lot” complained of “unsolicited race-based propaganda” at the airline.

“You cannot fly anywhere in Australia with Qantas without being welcomed to your own nation courtesy of an incoherent and unnecessary “acknowledgement of country” announcement,” she protested.

It’s not clear if she was calling for the new CEO to scrap the welcome to country, or just wanted to use the column dog whistle.

Liberal MP Kellie Sloane called out a newspaper article for focusing on Hudson’s role as a mother.

“When someone gets one of the biggest corporate jobs in the country can we please not start with the words “Mother of two….”.

There’s also a mocked up email doing the rounds. It’s appearance matches one of the many customer service emails sent by the airline due to delays and cancellations.


A slip of the tongue may suggest she doesn’t entirely have the support of the company’s chairman, but more widely the response from those with legitimate points of view has been clear.

Vanessa Hudson will be great, if she can fix it.

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