Alan Joyce & Qantas – a must read

Former CAPA Centre for Aviation executives Peter Harbison and Derek Sadubin, earlier this year released a new book tracing the history of Qantas and its controversial ex-CEO, Alan  Joyce. DR DAVID BEIRMAN wrote this review.

This book is a must read book for any travel industry professional who wants to understand the Qantas story from 2004-2023.  The authors Peter Harbison, who is the founder of CAPA Centre for Aviation and Derek Sadubin who was the General Manager are two of the leading experts in the Australian and global aviation sector. They write as two of the world’s best informed aviation insiders.

This book tells the  story of Alan Joyce, from his origins in working class Tallaght, just south of Dublin, to his university days as a mathematics prodigy and the first member of his family to gradate from university. It tells the story of his airline career which encompassed Air Lingus, Ansett , his early days in Qantas, His founding role with Jetstar and his controversial 15 year role as CEO of Qantas.

As most travel professionals will agree, Joyce has been a divisive character as Qantas CEO. Many of his close colleagues respect, like and admire him but he has also made many enemies , especially among trade unions which are a large part of the Qantas workforce, some politicians and airline competitors. Qantas leisure and corporate customers a deeply  divided in their attitude to Joyce and in the last months of his tenure as CEO many of Qantas’ “sins” caught up with Joyce. The book is a warts and all  discussion of Joyce’s strengths and weaknesses and the reader is left to make his or her own judgement..

However this book is much more than the Alan Joyce story. It is a revealing insight into both the Australian and the global aviation sector.   It discusses Qantas’ relationships with many of its One World partners and the fascinating story of the Qantas-Emirates alliance which bloomed from 2014. I gives a fascinating insight into the pre-Covid competition between the Qantas group led by Joyce and  and the Virgin group led by John Borghetti.  Many Travel Daily readers will be familiar with at least some of the names mentioned in this book. The book covers and clearly explains airline cost structures and in common with my own book Tourism Crises & Destination Recovery, it exposes the fatal flaws of the “high volume-low yield” business model which nearly destroyed all airlines and  travel business from most sectors of the industry during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

For those travel professionals who are not aviation insiders this book gives a fascinating and deep insight into the world, the issues and personalities who dominate global aviation today and the challenges they and specifically Qantas are facing to recover post-Covid. It is also an excellent analysis of Alan Joyce as a corporate leader and the importance that risk and crisis management plays in effective management of airlines and in fact all travel related businesses.

The retail price of the book is $37 but you can buy it from Big W  for $24 . As I spent many years at UTS teaching Airlines and Transport Managment I found to be a rattling good read  and great value for money.  I heartly recommend  all Travel Daily and travelBulletin readers obtain a copy of this excellent book.

Book written by  Peter Harbison and Derek Sadubin: Released Oct 2023 Penguin/Random Houses.

Dr David Beirman, Adjunct Fellow Management & Tourism, University of Technology Sydney

Author: Tourism Crises & Destination Recovery (2022) Sage Publications.

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