Virgin Australia’s Leadership Team Gets 6 New Members

A relaunched Virgin Australia has injected some fresh corporate ballast into the airline’s leadership ranks. Earlier this week, CEO Jayne Hrdlicka announced six new appointments to Virgin Australia’s executive team. Ms Hrdlicka, herself new to her role, said the appointments would help drive Virgin Australia’s transformation after last year’s collapse and subsequent sale.

Virgin Australia has refreshed its leadership team, announcing six new appointments. Photo: Getty Images

New executives at a refreshed & relaunched Virgin Australia

Lisa Burquest will become Virgin Australia’s Chief People Officer. Alistair Hartley will become Chief Transformation Officer. David Marr will step into the Chief Financial Officer’s role. Nick Rohrlach will become the CEO of Virgin Australia’s frequent flyer program, Velocity. Susan Schneider is to become Virgin Australia’s Chief Legal and Risk Officer. Finally, Moksha Watts becomes the Chief Corporate Affairs Officer.

“These people deeply understand our market, and they know our customers,” Ms. Hrdlicka said in a statement.

“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.”

The announcement is another step in Virgin Australia’s transition from a loss-making, debt-burdened Qantas clone to a lean and profitable middle-market airline. Only one of the new executives comes from within Virgin Australia ranks. Susan Schneider was the former General Manager of Legal and Compliance at Virgin Australia.

New Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has worked around airlines since 2010. Photo: Getty Images

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Jayne Hrdlicka taps her networks

Jayne Hrdlicka only took the top job at Virgin Australia in October, replacing Paul Scurrah. Ms Hrdlicka is a former Qantas alumna and Jetstar CEO. Most recently, Jayne Hrdlicka had a short-lived stint as CEO of The a2 Milk Company. But the Virgin Australia CEO has tapped her networks there, luring Lisa Burquest across to the aviation industry. Ms Burquest was most recently Chief People, Safety, and Sustainability Officer at The a2 Milk Company.

Nick Rohrlach was Co-CEO at Jetstar Japan. Mr Rohrlach has a long history working for the Qantas Group and was Jetstar’s Executive Manager of Strategy when Jayne Hrdlicka was CEO there. Mr Rohrlach has been Co-CEO of Jetstar Japan since September 2017. His poaching is a gentle shot across the bows of the Qantas Group.

Also coming from the airline industry is Alistair Hartley. He was most recently Director of Strategy for International Airlines Group (IAG). Mr Hartley is an Aussie who went to work for IAG in the United Kingdom in 2015. Now, he’s ditching the British chill for a steamy Brisbane summer.

The new leadership team will help transform Virgin Australia into a middle-market airline. Photo: Getty Images

Former Qantas Group executives step into key Virgin Australia roles

Moksha Watts was most recently the Vice President for Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at biscuit business Arnotts. However, Ms Watts started out as a political staffer in Canberra and later worked for both Qantas and Jetstar. Moksha Watts was Senior Manager of Government, Industry, and International Affairs at Jetstar during Jayne Hrdlicka’s tenure there as CEO.

The final appointment to Virgin Australia’s executive team is David Marr. He was most recently Chief Operating Officer at retailer Woolworths Group. He is the only new appointment that doesn’t have an airline industry background. Since graduating in the late 1980s, Mr Marr has variously worked for Goodman Fielder, Fosters, Tesco, and Woolworths.

Last month, Virgin Australia announced the appointment of Paul Jones as Chief Customer and Digital Officer. Mr Jones is another executive enticed across from the Qantas Group, where he was Chief Operating Officer.

Leaving Virgin Australia in March after two stints totaling ten years, is current Chief Financial Officer, Keith Neate. Incumbent Chief Legal and Risk Officer Dayna Field is also resigning after 13 years at Virgin Australia. In addition, Current Chief Information Officer Cameron Stone has also handed in his resignation letter. Chief Commercial Officer John MacLeod is going as well but will stay in his role until a replacement is found. In a statement issued yesterday, Jayne Hrdlicka noted the work the outgoing executives had put into keeping Virgin Australia flying during a very tough 2020.