I’VE NEVER met Vanessa Hudson but I hope she’s got shoulders broader than an NFL offensive tackle.

Ms Hudson is the new CEO of Qantas, our national airline whose reputation is currently lower than Barry White’s voice. In many people’s eyes The Flying Kangaroo has become The Flying Duck.

The hits have certainly been coming thick and fast in recent times.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating claims Qantas sold tickets on flights it had already cancelled.

The High Court ruled recently that 1,700 airline workers had been wrongly sacked, leaving Qantas open to compensation claims that could run into millions.

Widespread criticism followed when the government blocked a request from Qatar Airways for more flights into Australia, ostensibly in a bid to keep Qantas profitable.

The government claimed it made the decision “in the national interest”, despite the fact the move would have led to a lowering of airline prices for consumers.

Former CEO Alan Joyce walked early in the face of the firestorm, taking with him his final pay packet of $21.4 million.       

Ms Hudson now takes over a chalice more poisoned than Snow White’s red apple.

Keen to get on the front foot, she posted a video apologising to the Australian public for all the screw ups.

“I know that we have let you down in many ways and for that, I am sorry,” she said.

“We haven’t delivered the way we should have. And we’ve often been hard to deal with.

“We understand we need to earn your trust back, not with what we say but what we do and how we behave.”

Work is already underway to restore the public’s faith in Qantas. The company has revealed plans to spend a further $80 million into addressing “pain points” experienced by customers across the coming financial year.

More bodies will be added to call centres, Frequent Flyer members will be better catered for and customer policies across the board will be reviewed.

“We want to get back to the national carrier that Australians can be proud of, that’s known for going above and beyond,” added Ms Hudson.

Inspiring words, but the new CEO is going to find that the sharks are already circling.

The Australian Travel Industry Association (ATIA) has just fronted a Senate Inquiry demanding a change to Australia’s airline policy. (see Industrytalk)

Calling for an “aviation revolution”, the ATIA has outlined several proposed reforms, including an expansion of Australia’s ‘open skies’ air services agreements to a level comparable with markets overseas.

“Until consumers are at the heart of decisions being made about which airlines fly in and out of Australia, and it’s not just about the impact on airlines, we won’t see improvement. The current approach was born in 1944 and it’s frankly outdated,” said Dean Long, ATIA CEO.

“We should be rolling out the red carpet for any international carriers that want to fly to and from Australia,” claimed James Goodwin, Chief Executive, Australian Airports Association.

Qantas used to be the envy of many a national airline, famed for its service, standards and safety record.

It must be hoped that Ms Hudson has the fortitude and gumption to put a spring back into the step of the Flying Kangaroo.


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