Oneworld, the global airline alliance to which Qantas and British Airways belong, has named industry veteran Rob Gurney as its new chief executive.
Gurney will join oneworld in October after leaving Emirates, where he served as Senior Vice-President Commercial Operations The Americas. He has also worked in senior roles for Qantas and British Airways.
In the Australian travel industry, Gurney is probably best remembered for taking the top role at the former Jetset Travelworld Group mid 2012 after the departure of Peter Lacaze. Under his tenure the brands turned into helloworld, a name that raised eyebrows at the time.
Coincidentally, both helloworld and oneworld decline to start their names with capital letters.
At oneworld, Gurney succeeds Bruce Ashby, who announced in January that he would step down from the role later in the year after more than five years in the position.
Gurney has substantial experience of airline alliances with much of his 25-year career in the industry spent with oneworld founding members British Airways and Qantas.
For four years until 2012, he was the Australian carrier’s Group Executive Commercial, with responsibilities for global sales and marketing including alliance relationships, which saw him serving as Qantas’ representative on the oneworld Management Team “Executive Board”, working closely with all oneworld’s member airlines.
As oneworld chief executive, he will report to the alliance’s Governing Board, comprising the chief executives of all member airlines, and lead the central alliance team, which is based in New York.
Announcing the appointment, oneworld Governing Board Chairman Ivan Chu, chief executive of Cathay Pacific, said: “Bruce Ashby leaves big shoes to fill – and, in Rob Gurney, oneworld has appointed someone well able to do so. He takes on the role of oneworld CEO with a proven track record of successful leadership in key alliance and broader commercial roles within both the oneworld family and beyond, with all the attributes needed to lead the world’s most highly prized global alliance through the next phase of our development.”
Rob Gurney said: “In many ways, this move feels like coming home. I look forward to working once again with oneworld’s stable of best-in-class carriers from each region to build further on oneworld’s position as the best alliance in the skies.”
Rob Gurney joined oneworld founding partner British Airways in 1993, working in commercial roles in Australia, New Zealand and the airline’s London headquarters, where he project managed its first code-sharing partnership with Qantas.
In 1997, he switched to Qantas, working in various commercial roles in the airline’s Sydney headquarters, including revenue management, marketing and distribution. He served as Head of International Sales and Head of Worldwide Sales, ending as Group Executive Qantas Airlines Commercial, with responsibility for worldwide sales and marketing, including alliance relationships, joint ventures, the group’s QantasLink regional carrier, and freight.
After leaving Qantas in 2012, he served for two years as CEO of helloworld (previously branded Jetset Travelworld Group).
He was recruited by Emirates in 2014 as its Divisional Vice-President Australia and New Zealand, playing an instrumental role in developing the Gulf carrier’s bilateral alliance with Qantas. A year later, he was transferred by the airline to New York, as Senior Vice-President North America, responsible for all commercial activities in the USA and Canada. In March he assumed responsibility also for South America, becoming Senior Vice-President Commercial Operations The Americas.
Rob Gurney has dual UK and Australian citizenship.
Edited by Peter Needham