Early flight for Qantas boss as political row deepens

Qantas boss Alan Joyce will leave his job immediately in the wake of a political furore over the airline's profits and service.

Mr Joyce advised the board he was bringing forward his retirement by two months to "help the company accelerate its renewal", the airline announced on Tuesday.

CEO-designate Vanessa Hudson will assume the role of managing director and group chief executive on Wednesday.

“In the last few weeks, the focus on Qantas and events of the past make it clear to me that the company needs to move ahead with its renewal as a priority," Mr Joyce said.

"The best thing I can do under these circumstances is to bring forward my retirement and hand over to Vanessa and the new management team now, knowing they will do an excellent job."

His decision comes after a horror week for Qantas marked by a Senate grilling on delays, and warnings that the airline faces a possible $250 million fine.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced it was taking court action after Qantas allegedly advertised tickets for flights that had already been cancelled.

The company is reviewing the allegations made by the consumer watchdog and has acknowledged its standards "fell well short" as the airline emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month Qantas announced a record pre-tax profit of $2.47 billion for the past financial year, after recording a loss of almost $2 billion the previous year.

Soon after, it came under pressure to pay back the money it received from the federal government at the height of the pandemic.

It was given $2.7 billion from taxpayers, including $900 million from the JobKeeper program.

Transport Minister Catherine King said Mr Joyce's decision marked the end of one era and the start of a new one, with both major Australian airlines led by women.

"His decision to bring forward his retirement from Qantas provides an opportunity for new leadership," she said.

"I wish Vanessa Hudson every success in her new role."

Labor senator Tony Sheldon, who has led calls for Qantas to be more accountable, said Qantas chairman Richard Goyder "should go next".

Shareholders will formally vote on the appointment of Ms Hudson as managing director at the company's annual general meeting in November.

The Australian and International Pilots Association said the announcement would provide Qantas the "circuit breaker" needed to allow the airline to move forward.

The move came as parliament sought the release of sensitive documents about the federal government's decision to ban extra Qatar Airways flights in Australia.

Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie secured enough votes in the Senate to order the production of documents, giving the government until next week to table them or explain why they're being withheld. 

Senator McKenzie accused the government of running a "protection racket" for Qantas after the transport minister refused to elaborate on why her decision was made in the "national interest".

"Who is the government really protecting when it says this decision was in the national interest?" she said on Tuesday.

The senator also managed to set up an inquiry into the decision and its impact on the aviation sector and ticket prices, after initially failing to get the votes.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told parliament on Tuesday he had met with Qantas competitor Virgin Australia regarding the Qatar Airways bid, but did not elaborate.

Virgin has a strategic partnership with Qatar Airways.

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