Alan Joyce’s controversial $4 million bonus package was backed by 90 percent of investors who voted at Qantas’ shareholders meeting on Friday.
It came despite reports that one of the big three “proxy firms” told its members that the CEO’s goals weren’t “challenging enough”.
The disagreements centered on the shorter-term ‘board retention program’, which aims to keep Qantas’ net debt below a target level; $1 billion cost reduction through June; and to make the entire company profitable again by the end of the current financial year.
If these goals are met, Joyce would receive approximately $4 million in stock at current prices.
On Monday, Qantas shares traded at $5.97 – a post-COVID high and more than double the company’s pandemic low of just $2.36.
Joyce’s bonus was controversial after the airline faced a series of problems in 2020, including huge delays at Easter, hours of waiting for calls and even the revelation that the cabin crew of a Qantas A330 had been tricked into flying in economy Great to sleep in multiple seats.
Speaking at the AGM, Joyce acknowledged that Qantas “several months into the year” has not met the standards that people “rightly expect”.
“There were too many flight delays, long call center waits and mishandled bags,” he said.
“As I said in my message to millions of our frequent flyers in August, there were good reasons for this, but they weren’t good enough.
“Qantas’ performance improved tremendously in August and continued to improve in September. Today we released figures showing that in October we were firmly back to pre-COVID levels of service – and in some cases even better.”
The vote of confidence in the chief executive came after chairman Richard Goyder said at the shareholders’ meeting that Joyce would continue in his role “at least” until the end of 2023 and that a talk about his exit would not take place until “sometime over the next year”.
“The board is very confident that Alan has developed very capable leaders and that we have strong internal succession and the board will of course review externally as well,” he said. “But the board is very confident that we are in good shape regarding the CEO succession as and when it takes place.”
Joyce was appointed chief executive of Qantas in November 2008 after five years as head of Jetstar.
It has long been rumored he would be leaving in the next 18 months, after saying in February last year that COVID would be his “final crisis” as CEO.
Joyce has won praise and criticism for recently overseeing a remarkable turnaround that will see the company target underlying pre-tax earnings of up to $1.3 billion in the first half of the current fiscal year.
The result comes even as the broader group reported an underlying pre-tax loss of $1.86 billion in its most recent full-year results and claimed the pandemic cost its airlines a total of $7 billion.