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Key takeaways from Qantas shareholders’ meeting in Melbourne

Not much new emerged from Friday’s annual meeting of Qantas shareholders in Melbourne, as the high levels of shareholder and customer dissatisfaction with the airline have been evident for several years, particularly this year.

Much of this discontent is linked to various issues centered around the former CEO, Alan Joyce, especially his final year’s remuneration, which drove a lot of the unhappiness observed at the meeting.

During the meeting, Qantas faced an 83% vote against its remuneration report for the 2022-23 financial year. This vote constituted a “strike,” defined as a vote of 25% or more of shareholder votes cast at the meeting opposing the remuneration report. A second 25% plus vote at the next AGM would necessitate the board’s dissolution and new elections.

Before discussing the item, Qantas Remuneration Committee Chair and outgoing director Jacqueline Hey addressed shareholders, stating, “The message to management is unambiguous. We must deliver on a level of service our customers have a right to expect.”

This marked the first time Qantas had received a remuneration strike and is one of the largest strikes ever recorded in corporate history.

Director Todd Sampson faced a substantial minority vote against his reelection, with around 34% of the votes cast rejecting him, though he was ultimately reelected with a 66% majority. In contrast, the new CEO, Vanessa Hudson, received overwhelming support with a 99% approval rating.

Director Belinda Hutchinson faced a 7% vote against her reelection, with 92% of the votes cast in support. Hutchinson serves as the audit chair and was appointed in 2018.

Earlier in the meeting, CEO Vanessa Hudson informed attendees that Qantas currently holds approximately $520 million in unredeemed flight credits due to flight cancellations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August, Qantas eliminated the expiry date on COVID-19 credits following a concerns notice from the ACCC, which had also launched legal action against the company over alleged consumer law breaches in the 2022 Ghost Flights ticket-selling scandal.

In August, Qantas had an outstanding amount of $750 million in unredeemed credits. The company accrued $2 billion worth of canceled flights across Qantas, Jetstar, and overseas bookings from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 to October 2021.

Hudson also mentioned that Qantas was now sending text messages to individuals with unredeemed credits to encourage their utilisation and reduce the outstanding amount.

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