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Virgin Australia announces new leadership team

Virgin Australia’s new CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has announced key appointments to the airline’s executive leadership team including a new CEO for loyalty program Velocity, chief customer and digital officer and chief corporate affairs officer.

Virgin Australia’s general manager, brand and marketing Michael Nearhos exited the business late last year along with a number of other executives following a difficult year for the airline, which entered administration in July and was subsequently acquired by Bain Capital shortly after.

Virgin Australia made job cuts of 40%, which also carried across to the the marketing team.

Last month, Virgin Australia announced the appointment of Paul Jones as chief customer and digital officer. Jones joins from Qantas, where he acted in a range of roles across commercial, operational and customer teams before becoming chief operating officer in September 2020.  Jones has worked in aviation, fast moving consumer goods and technology businesses in Australia, the UK and US. Prior to Qantas, he was chief information officer and vice president of integration at Mars, based in the US.

In late 2020 chief experience officer Danielle Keighery, who oversaw product and customer functions, inflight services, branding and marketing, PR and media relations, and internal communications also exited the business.

One of the latest executive appointments is Moksha Watts who will join Virgin Australia as chief corporate affairs officer on 1 March 2021. Watts brings experience across the public and private sectors in government, communications, industry and international policy. Prior to joining Virgin Australia, she was Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at the Arnott’s Group. She has significant experience in the global aviation industry having held positions at Etihad Airways, Jetstar Airways and Qantas Airways.

Hrdlicka has signalled Virgin’s return to mid-market positioning, targeting value-conscious corporate travellers, small and medium businesses, premium leisure travellers, and holidaymakers who are after a great value airfare and better service.

“Our new executive team will be at the forefront of helping our team members to deliver that strategy,” she said. “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.”

She added: “We have made significant changes to the business and have real momentum despite the current aviation industry challenges. We’ve re-opened lounges in major cities, we’ve matched Qantas’ Frequent Flyer status challenge and included Qantas’ OneWorld partner airlines, and we’ve increased flexibility for our customers with fee-free flight changes as our domestic borders remain uncertain. While far from finished, we are off to a good start.”

The Virgin Australia Group ELT going forward:

Stuart Aggs, chief operations officer
Lisa Burquest, chief people officer
Alistair Hartley, chief transformation officer
Paul Jones, chief customer and digital officer
David Marr, chief financial officer
Nick Rohrlach, CEO Velocity
Susan Schneider, chief legal and risk officer
Moksha Watts, chief corporate affairs officer

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