Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has refused to be drawn on whether the Qantas chairman should step down as pilots call for Richard Goyder to resign.
After a tumultuous few months for the airline, during which former chief executive Alan Joyce vacated his role early, the Australian and International Pilots Association is calling on Mr Goyder to step down.
The union has written to new Qantas chief executive Vanessa Hudson to say the national carrier is in desperate need of a culture reset, which can’t occur under Mr Goyder’s leadership.
They described revelations that Mr Goyder accepted a $100,000 pay rise while pilots were asked to consider a two-year wage freeze as “galling”.
When asked whether it was time for Mr Goyder to resign, Mr Albanese said it was clear Qantas had a long road ahead as it sought to repair its reputation.
“What we know is that Qantas has a lot of work to do to repair the damage that has been done to its reputation, both in terms of its workers and its customers,” he said.
“There is an important need for Qantas – it’s an important Australian company, an important Australian brand, and there’s a lot of work to do to repair its reputation.”
In making their demand – the first time such an ask has been made – the union noted there was record low pilot morale after what they say has been a “botched” recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and a series of “woeful” decisions.
“Richard Goyder has overseen one of the most damaging periods in Qantas history, which has included the illegal sacking of 1700 workers, allegations of illegally marketing cancelled flights, and a terribly managed return to operations after Covid-19,” AIPA president Tony Lucas said.
“The morale of Qantas pilots has never been lower. We have totally lost confidence in Goyder and his board.
“Qantas desperately needs a culture reset, but how can this happen with Richard Goyder as chairman?”
The call comes after Qantas was forced to remove the expiry dates on $570m worth of Covid-19 travel credits after widespread backlash.
The ACCC launched an investigation into claims the airline had sold tickets for already-cancelled flights.
Qantas and the Transport Workers Union have been ordered to attend mediation after the High Court unanimously rejected Qantas’ appeal against a ruling that the airline illegally outsourced ground staff.
Last week, Ms Hudson issued an apology to customers for the airline’s recent performance – admitting the national carrier had “let you down in many ways, and for that I am sorry”.
A senate inquiry is also underway to determine whether Qantas had a role in the government’s decision to block Qatar Airway’s bid to nearly double its flight offerings to Australia.
Despite all that, Mr Goyder last week assured The World Today he had the confidence of the board, and major investors wanted him to say.
But the pilots say it’s untenable, “galling and tone deaf” that Mr Goyder – who now earns a $750k salary – continues in the role while pilots are asked accept a pay freeze.
Captain Lucas said Qantas was “more than just an airline” and deserved to be given the best opportunity to win back Australia’s trust.
“For our great national carrier to flourish, it needs leadership from a board that understands the value of its employees, respects its customers, and can win back the trust of the nation,” he said.
Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie – who is heading up the senate inquiry probing Australia’s airline industry – said as a corporate citizen, Qantas had “not covered itself in glory in the recent past”.
“They are not behaving as we’d expect of a corporate citizen in this country, and that’s something that the shareholders have to deal with,” she told ABC News.