Alan Joyce, who has been at the helm of Qantas Airways for 15 years, has left his role under a cloud of controversies, months ahead of his planned November retirement.
However, the real headline-maker is the $24 million golden handshake he's walking away with, adding to an already substantial financial portfolio that includes a record $23.9 million he earned in 2018.
Joyce's generous exit package is raising eyebrows given the current challenges plaguing the airline, including a controversial $2.5 billion profit announcement after receiving $2.7 billion in government Covid assistance.
"If the Board allows Mr Joyce to walk away with $24 million…it will be the swindle of the century," said Labor senator and former union boss Tony Sheldon.
Sheldon also accused Joyce of leaving behind a legacy of "low pay, insecure work, illegal sackings and consumer rip-offs."
"The best thing I can do under these circumstances is to bring forward my retirement and hand over to Vanessa [Hudson] and the new management team now, knowing they will do an excellent job," Joyce stated.
Hudson will assume the role of CEO starting this Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Qantas is grappling with legal actions from the ACCC for allegations of selling tickets on 8,000 "ghost flights" and is also the subject of a class-action lawsuit by customers regarding flight cancellations.
The share price has plummeted to $5.65, a stark contrast to the $6.75 per share when Joyce unloaded over 80% of his shares in June.
Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas opined:
"I think it was time for Alan to move on," alluding to the controversies that seemed to revolve around Joyce during his tenure. Despite these issues, Joyce leaves the company claiming it "has a bright future."
The timing and size of Joyce's golden handshake are prompting significant public discussion, especially against the backdrop of his already hefty earnings and the myriad controversies currently facing the airline.