Jayne Hrdlicka returns to aviation as Virgin Australia CEO

Jayne Hrdicka, Hrdlicka

Jayne Hrdlicka, the former Group CEO of Qantas’s budget airline Jetstar and former CEO of The a2 Milk Company, has returned to aviation as CEO of Virgin Australia.

Hrdlicka, who held senior positions at Bain & Company between 1987 and 1991 and then 1997 to 2010, was chosen by the Boston US-based private equity management consultancy to take over from Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah, who stepped down on Thursday.

Bain & Company paid A$3.5 million last month for Virgin Australia after it was placed into voluntary administration on April 21, with debts of A$6.8 billion.

Bain & Company vowed to keep thousands of jobs at Virgin Australia, honour all employee entitlements and carry forward all travel credits and Velocity frequent flyer booked flights. It also said it would invest in regional services, although they would be reduced.

Virgin Australia will no longer operate as a full-service carrier like Australian airline Qantas, although the revamped airline will maintain key routes internationally. When flights resume when the coronavirus pandemic is dealt with, the airline will be operating a much smaller fleet of Boeing 737s, Bain & Company said.

Hrdlicka, who is from Kansas, ran Jetstar for six years after joining Qantas in 2010. She built one of the most successful low-cost airlines in the world.

“There is no other airline in the world which was able to pull off what Qantas was able to do, to have a low-cost business alongside a full-service business,” she said in 2012. “Great strategy – brilliantly executed.”

Hrdlicka was an adviser for Bain & Company as they moved to take over the stricken airline, wooing unions, staff, Scurrah, customers and the administrator Deloitte.

It will be Hrdlicka’s job to manage what is expected to be another round of compulsory redundancies. Virgin and Qantas have not yet agreed on the appropriate staffing levels that will be needed when flying resumes, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Hrdlicka, who has been Tennis Australia Board President and Chair since October 2017, will begin her role as CEO of Virgin Australia next month.

She will be a welcome addition to ranks of female CEOs in Australia.

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