Air New Zealand’s CFO Becomes The Carrier’s Acting CEO

Air New Zealand’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff McDowall is to take over the reins at the Kiwi airline from September 25th, 2019. The airline’s longstanding and successful CEO, Christopher Luxon, resigned in June but remained in the role pending a replacement. 

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CFO Jeff McDowall is temporarily stepping into the CEO’s shoes. Photo: Umedha Shanka Indranath Hettigoda via Flickr.

Now Jeff McDowall is stepping into the breach while the airline’s board finalizes its choice for a permanent CEO. Aviation Daily is reporting that Mr. McDowall is not seeking a permanent appointment to the CEO position.

Mr. McDowall has had a substantial aviation career, working in various countries around the world. His previous roles at Air New Zealand included being Group General Manager Corporate Finance and Group General Manager Commercial.

Jeff McDowall likely to be in CEO role until early 2020

In a statement provided to Simple Flying, Air New Zealand said that, given the rigor being put into the CEO search process, it is possible a candidate will not be chosen until early 2020. In the meantime Air New Zealand Director and the next Chairperson, Dame Therese Walsh, said;

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“We are fortunate to have a talented executive team who are united in their support of Jeff to lead them and the business as acting Chief Executive Officer during this interim period. Jeff has held senior management roles across the airline for more than a decade and is well known to investors, stakeholders and key partners, such as the travel trade and unions.” 

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Mr. Jeff McDowall. Photo: Air New Zealand.

2019 profits fall short of expectations

Air New Zealand has been busy lately increasing its frequencies and fine-tuning its timetables. They are putting on more flights to Bali and more flights to Singapore in 2020. It helps distract from the airline’s 2018/19 financial year profits announced just hours ago.

Air New Zealand earned NZD$374 million before tax in the latest financial year. Its net profit after tax was NZD$270 million. In the 2017/18 financial year, Air New Zealand earned NZD$540 before tax.

Revenue grew by 5.3% in the last financial year. There was also an NZD$191 million increase in the cost of fuel and costs associated with the Boeing 787 engine issues.

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As with other airlines, the Boeing 787 Rolls Royce engine issues impacted on Air New Zealand. Photo: Cammynz via Wikimedia Commons.

Whilst it is indeed good news that any airline can make a profit these days, the result did not meet expectations set by the airline at the start of the year. The Chairman of Air New Zealand, Tony Carter, said the airline was operating in a different environment to 12 months ago, citing slowing demand. He indicated that had the airline not taken steps to address the situation, the result would have been worse.

“When we first saw signs that demand was slowing, we took immediate steps to review our network, fleet and cost base, to position the airline for success in a lower growth environment. While we have made progress, this work is still ongoing”.

Finally

Air New Zealand has proven itself hardy at dealing with challenges. As a long haul airline at the end of the world, it has to be adaptable and innovative to survive and prosper. 

Jeff McDowall is stepping into the CEO role on a day the airline will be in the news in New Zealand. But he has been working for Air New Zealand for 10 plus years. He’ll be well drilled in that innovate or whither culture. The airline should be in safe hands with him.

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