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John Borghetti to step down as Virgin Australia CEO by January 2020

written by WOFA | June 12, 2018

Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti. (Jordan Chong)
Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti. (Jordan Chong)

Virgin Australia will have just the third chief executive in its near 20-year history by the start of 2020, with current boss John Borghetti announcing his intention to step down some time in the next 18 months.

Borghetti has “advised the board he will not renew his contract post 1 January 2020”, Virgin Australia said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) on Tuesday.

“Mr Borghetti has signalled his desire to depart by this date to enable the Group ample time to recruit an incoming CEO and allow for an appropriate transition,” the Virgin Australia statement said.

Virgin Australia chairman Elizabeth Bryan said the board would commence a global search for a successor.

“The board and I are grateful to John for providing a generous period of time for the search for the CEO and an appropriate transition of leadership,” Bryan said in the statement.

“I would like to acknowledge John’s enormous contribution to the Virgin Australia Group to date and thank him for his continued dedication.”

Borghetti said it was a privilege to serve as the chief executive of the Virgin Australia group and lead a “wonderful team of 10,000 people”.


“By notifying the board of my intentions now, it provides them with an appropriate time to conduct a thorough recruitment process and for me to support the transition,” Borghetti said.

“In the interim, I look forward to continuing in the role of CEO and remain focused on delivering the goals of the Virgin Australia Group.”

The veteran aviation executive has spent more than four decades in aviation, having worked at Qantas for 37 years where he rose to executive general manager. He left the Flying Kangaroo in 2009, after Alan Joyce was named chief executive.

John Borghetti relaunched Virgin Blue as Virgin Australia in May 2011.

Borghetti has been Virgin Australia chief executive for a little over eight years, having succeeded Brett Godfrey in May 2010. He is just the second chief executive in the airline’s history.

Under his leadership, the airline has been transformed from a low-cost carrier into an airline group with a full service (Virgin Australia) and low-cost-carrier (Tigerair Australia) arm, as well as regional and cargo operations and a frequent flyer program nudging nine million members.

However, what has eluded Virgin Australia under Borghetti has been consistent profitability, with the airline group racking up losses in excess of $1 billion over the past five financial years. The expansion into new markets, investment in upgraded products both on the ground and in the air also took its toll on the company’s balance sheet.

And Borghetti’s departure comes as the airline is facing challenges on a number of fronts.

First, Virgin Australia is in the midst of a three-year transformation program that has involved the disposal of Embraer E190 regional jets and some ATR turboprops, as well as the transition of Tigerair Australia Airbus A320s to Boeing 737-800s and capital raising efforts to boost the company’s balance sheet.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand signalled it was walking away from the pair’s trans-Tasman joint-venture alliance when it ends in October, leaving Virgin Australia without a local partner in the domestic New Zealand market.

And the airline is battling a resurgent Qantas that is making healthy profits in the domestic Australian market while Virgin Australia struggles for profitability.

Finally, there is ongoing speculation about the company’s share register, which features five major shareholders in Etihad Airways, HNA Group, Nanshan, Singapore Airlines and Sir Richard Branson’s United Kingdom-based Virgin Group, and whether the company would eventually be delisted from the ASX and taken private.

Nonetheless, Borghetti is credited with the transformation of Virgin Blue to a full-service and diversified airline group and adding competition to the Australian aviation sector.

Despite recent struggles, Virgin Australia posted a positive underlying profit before tax for the six months to December 31 2017 and pointed to an improved underlying performance in the second half of the 2017/18 compared with the prior corresponding period.

Moody’s Investors Service also lifted its outlook for Virgin Australia from negative to stable in May 2018.

In recent times, Borghetti has taken less of a day-to-day role in the running of the airline. In 2016, John Thomas was appointed as Virgin Australia group executive for airlines. However, he lasted less than a year in the role.

In November 2017 Rob Sharp was appointed to the role.

While it was unclear what Borghetti’s next step will be, he currently sits on the board of drinks company Coca-Cola Amatil. And his previous director positions included being on the board of CARE Australia, The Australian Ballet, Piper Aircraft USA and Energy Australia.


  • Rod Pickin


    It would be ungracious of anyone not to acknowledge the achievements of Mr.B under his stewardship of Virgin Oz. To his credit he has acknowledged that now is the time to move on and the search now begins for a replacement which, considering the curent owners register, could be interesting. I hope that the next incumbent will have an operational background rather than from the marketing arena as now the airline needs to fully understand where it next wishes to fly and what equipment is best suited to that purpose, to continue as present is not an option,- Long live Virgin Oz..

  • Red Barron


    Wonder if anyone will be talking with Rob Fyfe ex Air N.Z. CEO ???

  • Sam


    He should have left when Air New Zealand demanded his resignation. Sure he has turned virgin into a full service airline but what’s the point if they can barely turn a profit in times of low fuel prices and a strong economy. With fuel beginning to rise again, VA will no doubt be losing money soon. Announcing his resignation in the middle of a three year turn around makes no sense. Stevie Wonnder could see that this is a sacking, plain and simple.

    John Borghetti’s time at virgin will be remember as one which started with hope and optimism and ended in failure. The A330 operation that he introduced has been unprofitable and chaotic (ie/ Perth – Abu Dhabi), tiger getting kicked out of Bali, tigers transition to the 737, the massive fall in share price and losing Air New Zealand as a partner on the Tasman to QF just to name a few of the embarrassments during his tenure.

  • Graeme Esler


    Good luck John, you deserve it.

  • There will be a difficulty attracting any quality candidates whilst the dysfunctional shareholder board is the way it is.
    Hainan (HNA) still have serious liquidity problems, Ethiad is at an enforced standstill, Nanshan are new boys on the block with no great airline experience and Virgin Group is being seriously dismembered by Delta leaving only Singapore Airlines as a stable predictable shareholder. If VA needed additional capital it is unlikely that at least 2 of the shareholders could step up.
    Would a top industry person want to take this on if they already had a proper job!

  • Markie Mark



    You’d be silly to think that this was a sacking. A board of a company wouldn’t sack a CEO and then give him 18 months to clean out his locker.

  • James B


    So an airline in serious debt, with terrible aging fleet’s and a LCC (TigerAir) that is being run into ruin by terrible management seems like a terrible legacy to leave on!

  • Timothy


    I hope the next CEO of Virgin Australia will be Campbell Wilson, currently the Senior Vice President – Sales and Marketing
    with Singapore Airlines. It makes the most sense to appoint someone from the most significant shareholder to helm Virgin Australia.

  • John


    Bring back John Thomas.

Comments are closed.


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