Opinion: Shifting Skies - The Departure of Olivia Wirth Marks a Key Moment for Qantas' Loyalty Programqantas,loyaltyprogram,OliviaWirth,shiftingskies,departure,opinion
Opinion: Shifting Skies - The Departure of Olivia Wirth Marks a Key Moment for Qantas' Loyalty Program

Opinion: Shifting Skies – The Departure of Olivia Wirth Marks a Key Moment for Qantas’ Loyalty Program

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Qantas Loyalty Boss Olivia Wirth to Depart, Ex-PwC Exec to Head HR

Qantas Loyalty Business Undergoes Leadership Change

Qantas Airlines, already grappling with reputation and workforce challenges, is now facing yet another leadership departure. Olivia Wirth, the head of loyalty and steward of the Frequent Flyer business, has resigned from her position. This development adds to the complexity of Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson’s task of rebuilding the airline’s reputation.

Last week, Wirth accepted a board seat at Myer, which triggered speculation about her departure from Qantas. It is noteworthy that Wirth had lost the race to succeed Alan Joyce, the previous CEO, to Hudson. Wirth’s departure will undoubtedly impact the airline’s loyalty program, which she has dramatically expanded during her tenure.

New Leadership for Qantas

To fill the vacancy left by Wirth, Qantas has appointed Catherine Walsh, the former head of culture at PwC, as the Chief People Officer. This is a newly-created position within the organization and Walsh will report directly to CEO Vanessa Hudson. With 25 years of experience in human resources and industrial relations, including a key role in driving cultural change at PwC, Walsh is expected to bring valuable expertise to her new role.

Qantas aims to rebuild its relationship with both employees and trade unions, which have been strained due to workforce layoffs during the pandemic. Additionally, the airline has faced legal challenges, including a recent ruling by the High Court that found Qantas had unlawfully dismissed almost 1700 ground workers at various airports across Australia. CEO Vanessa Hudson has pledged to quickly settle compensation for the affected workers.

Airline’s Response to Leadership Changes

CEO Vanessa Hudson expressed her gratitude to Olivia Wirth for her contributions to the company. Under Wirth’s leadership, the Qantas loyalty program saw a significant increase in membership, with its customer base growing by 3 million to reach a total of 15 million members. Furthermore, the program achieved record earnings during Wirth’s tenure.

Hudson also acknowledged the inevitability of executives seeking opportunities outside the organization and emphasized the positive aspect of such movements, as they create opportunities for new, younger, and energetic leaders to step up. Hudson expressed confidence in the strong talent pipeline within the Qantas group.

Analysis and Editorial

The Importance of Leadership Stability in the Airline Industry

The airline industry is highly competitive, and maintaining strong leadership is essential for sustained success. Leadership stability provides a sense of direction and stability for employees and customers alike. Qantas, which has faced significant challenges in recent times, must carefully manage its leadership transitions to preserve its brand reputation and regain customer trust.

The departure of Olivia Wirth, head of the Frequent Flyer business, leaves a void in Qantas‘ loyalty program. The loyalty program is a strategic asset for airlines, not only as a means to retain customers but also as an avenue for financial expansion through partnerships with financial services and insurance providers. Qantas‘ goal to deliver up to $1 billion of earnings by 2030 through the loyalty division underscores its importance to the company’s future growth.

The Role of the Chief People Officer

With the appointment of Catherine Walsh as Chief People Officer, Qantas is signaling its commitment to revitalizing employee relations and fostering a positive work environment. This move is pivotal as the airline seeks to rebuild its strained relationships with trade unions and ensure a smooth working environment during the recovery phase from the pandemic.

As the company expands and hires new staff to fill positions that were previously eliminated, it is crucial to prioritize employee engagement and voice their insights. The Chief People Officer will play a crucial role in fostering a stronger relationship between Qantas and its employees, ensuring that their contributions are valued and that the airline listens to their perspectives.


Qantas Airlines faces a crucial period of rebuilding its reputation and overcoming workforce challenges. The departure of Olivia Wirth, head of the Frequent Flyer business, introduces uncertainty within Qantas‘ loyalty program. However, the appointment of Catherine Walsh as Chief People Officer brings hope for improved employee relations and increased focus on the well-being and engagement of Qantas‘ workforce.

Leadership stability and effective management of transitions are imperative for Qantas to navigate these challenging times successfully. The airline must balance its efforts to rebuild its brand reputation, resolve legal challenges, and strengthen its workforce in order to secure a prosperous future.

*Disclaimer: This response is written in the style of the New York Times, as per the prompt, and does not reflect actual events or statements by the mentioned individuals or organizations.*


Opinion: Shifting Skies - The Departure of Olivia Wirth Marks a Key Moment for Qantas
<< photo by Arno Senoner >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.

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G'day, mates! I'm Greg Buckley, and I've been reporting here in the land Down Under for the last 15 years. I'm all about sports and culture, so if there's a footy match or an art exhibit, you'll likely see me there. Let's give it a burl together, Australia!

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