Aviation

Virgin Australia announces mass changes to executive team

Virgin Australia Group has announced several changes to its executive leadership team, as the airline continues to shape its post-administration future under new owner Bain Capital.

Several of the new appointments replace contractors or fill vacant positions.

Lisa Burquest has been appointed as Virgin’s chief people officer, and will join the airline from The a2 Milk Company, where she holds the position of chief people, safety and sustainability officer.

Alistair Hartley, director of strategy at International Airlines Group, will become Virgin’s chief transformation officer; Woolworths Group chief operating officer, David Marr, will become chief financial officer.

Marr will take over from outgoing CFO, Keith Neate, who is to leave the business at the end of March after two stints totalling 10 years with the airline.

Nick Rohrlach, co-CEO of Jetstar Japan, will become the CEO of Velocity, following the departure of Courtney Peterson late last year.

Virgin’s chief legal and risk officer, Dayna Field, has announced her decision to leave the business after more than 13 years. Susan Schneider, who is the airline’s general manager of legal and compliance and joint company secretary, will be promoted to replace Field.

Moksha Watts, vice president of corporate affairs and sustainability at The Arnott’s Group, will become the airline’s chief corporate affairs officer.

Virgin’s chief commercial officer, John MacLeod, has announced his intention to retire and will continue in the position until a replacement is found, and chief information officer Cameron Stone recently resigned from the business to join TEG as its chief technology officer.

Cameron Stone

Last month, Virgin announced the appointment of Qantas’ Paul Jones as chief customer and digital officer.

The airline also recently farewelled its general manager of sales for Australia and New Zealand, Ann Elliott, who has since resurfaced at Regional Express.

Elliott was one of a number of executives to quietly exit Virgin after Bain’s takeover deal was approved by creditors in September.

Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka (pictured above), who is also still considered a newbie at the airline after Paul Scurrah stepped down, said each new executive team member is a world-class leader with a proven track record and deep experience in aviation or consumer-focused businesses.

“These people deeply understand our market, and they know our customers,” she said.

“Virgin Australia has signalled a return to its mid-market heartland, targeting value-conscious corporate travellers, small and medium businesses, premium leisure travellers, and holidaymakers who are after a great value airfare and better service.

“Our new executive team will be at the forefront of helping our team members to deliver that strategy.

“All the new appointees have a demonstrated commitment to staff, customers and the community and are a perfect fit with the Virgin Australia culture I have come to know intimately over the past few months.

“Today’s announcement underscores our commitment to be Australia’s most loved and best value airline for business and leisure travellers, and to build a strong company that will endure for the long term.

“Our executive team has played a significant role in setting us up for the future, particularly during the past 12 months as the team successfully led the airline through its most turbulent period.

“I thank them all for their hard work, passion, resilience and commitment to Virgin Australia’s success. The foundations they have laid during administration are vital for the next chapter in Virgin Australia’s history.”

Hrdlicka said the airline has made significant changes to the business and has “real momentum “despite the current aviation industry challenges.

“We’ve re-opened lounges in major cities, we’ve matched Qantas’ Frequent Flyer status challenge and included Qantas’ Oneworld partner airlines, and we’ve increased flexibility for our customers with fee-free flight changes as our domestic borders remain uncertain,” she noted.

“While far from finished, we are off to a good start.”

Virgin Australia Group’s new-look exec leadership team is as follows: Jayne Hrdlicka (CEO and managing director), Stuart Aggs (chief operations officer), Lisa Burquest (chief people officer), Alistair Hartley (chief transformation officer), Paul Jones (chief customer and digital officer), John MacLeod (chief commercial officer, retiring), David Marr (CFO), Nick Rohrlach (CEO, Velocity), Susan Schneider (chief legal and risk officer), and Moksha Watts (chief corporate affairs officer).

Virgin’s new executives will join the business over the next several months.

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