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Luxon's last stand: Air NZ chief executive steps down at annual meeting



Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon has made his final public appearance heading the national carrier saying there was light at the end of the tunnel with the engine issues that have seriously disrupted flight schedules.

At the company's annual general meeting on Auckland on Wednesday Luxon said the job had been a "privilege, and he had" loved every minute "of his seven years with the company, despite the heavy expectations that went with it.

STUFF

Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon reveals he's leaving the airline after seven years in the top job.

In late June Luxon announced he was leaving the top job and the airline has appointed chief financial officer Jeff McDowall as acting chief executive.

Shareholders were told the caliber of potential candidates for the position was high and the board expected to announce a permanent replacement in the next month or so.

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Outgoing board chair Tony Carter paid tribute to Luxon's outstanding leadership for the airline, the New Zealand business community, and the wider aviation sector.

He said the company annual before tax earnings of $ 374m was well down on the previous year's $ 540m result, but in light of the challenges the business faced, it demonstrated the airline's resilience.

"Christopher's legacy will be the strong business he leaves behind and the special and unique culture he has instilled throughout all levels of the organization."

Luxon was the highest-paid chief executive of any company on the New Zealand stock exchange last year, earning $ 4.2 million.

One of his major challenges has centered on flight disruptions caused by maintenance issues with the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines that power the airline's 787 Dreamliners, with up to five of the 13-strong fleet grounded while engines were serviced in Singapore.

Air New Zealand has ordered eight new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners, with an option to purchase up to 20, and shareholders voted in support of that purchase.

Luxon said the new fleet would be a real game changer for the airline offering a 25 per fuel efficiency improvement over the aircraft it was opening up lots of opportunities for network growth to continue.

The airline would also continue to invest in customer services, with free wi-fi rolled out on international flights, and upgraded passenger lounges opened in Auckland in November and Wellington next year.

Luxon did not mention his future plans in his speech to the meeting.

He has raised the possibility of a political career leading to widespread speculation he would be a sitter for a safe National Party seat, and his name even popped up in a Colmar Brunton poll for preferred Prime Minister.

In May Air New Zealand announced it intended to buy eight 787-10 Aircraft, the first of which is scheduled for delivery in September 2022. However under NZX rules, the size of the purchase required shareholder approval at Wednesday's annual general meeting.

Supplied

In May Air New Zealand announced it intended to buy eight 787-10 Aircraft, the first of which is scheduled for delivery in September 2022. However under NZX rules, the size of the purchase required shareholder approval at Wednesday's annual general meeting.

During Luxon's time at the helm he has not been backward in coming forward with ideas for improving aviation infrastructure around the country, accusing Auckland and other airports of under investment.

He recently floated the idea of ​​a second commercial airport of Auckland, at the Whenuapai military base to cut the commute time for travelers, after earlier mooting a new Central Otago airport to avoid noise issues and capacity limitations at Queenstown.

Departing Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon, left, and Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt on board the inaugural Auckland to Invercargill direct flight in August. During his tenure Luxon has come under political pressure for cutting other regional services.

ROBYN EDIE / STUFF

Departing Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon, left, and Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt on board the inaugural Auckland to Invercargill direct flight in August. During his tenure Luxon has come under political pressure for cutting other regional services.

Last year the airline's decision to pull out of regional centers, with the axing of flights to places such as the Kāpiti Coat and Kaitaia, raised the ire of Regional Development Minister Shane Jones.

He said Luxon should should decide whether he wanted to be in politics or business, and should resign if his choice was politics.

The Government owns a 52 per cent shareholding Air New Zealand and Jones called on the airline board to be "more responsive" to its majority shareholder, which led board chair Tony Carter and Luxon to vigorously defend the company's commercial independence.


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