Virgin Australia hires aviation consultant to run domestic and international operations

Virgin is restructuring its management structure. (Rob Finlayson)

Virgin Australia has appointed a US-based aviation consultant to run its airline business under a new management structure.

The airline has confirmed media reports that John Thomas, an Australian, will join Virgin as group executive of Virgin Australia Airlines, with responsibility for its domestic and international operations.

Based in Boston, Thomas is currently a managing director and partner of consulting firm LEK and head of Asia Pacific. The veteran executive also heads LEK’s aviation and travel, according to the consulting firm’s website, and was a commercial instrument rated pilot.

He was expected to start with Virgin in September.

“John has worked with many leading airlines on their business strategies for more than 25 years and has played a key role in personalising the customer experience and building new ancillary revenue streams in the US aviation market. John is also a keen recreational pilot,” Virgin chief executive John Borghetti said in a memo to staff, according to a report from The Australian Financial Review.

John Thomas. (LEK)
John Thomas. (LEK)

Currently, Virgin’s chief commercial officer Judith Crompton is responsible for alliances, network, revenue management and sales for the airline’s domestic and international network; chief operating officer Gary Hammes looks after the day to day running of Virgin mainline covering areas such as engineering, ground, flight and network operations, among other tasks; while chief customer officer Mark Hassell oversees product and service development, marketing, brand management, customer relations, lounges, cabin crew and customer service.

The Australian Financial Review reported the three executives would report to Thomas under the new management structure.

The appointment comes as Virgin moves to reduce costs and improve its financial performance through the withdrawal of aircraft and staff cuts.

Virgin is tapping existing shareholders for $852 million in a capital raising due to be conducted in July. The airline group has also raised $159 million after China’s HNA Group joined the share register as a new shareholder with an initial 13 per cent stake and board seat.