Big challenges ahead for Air New Zealand's next CEO

The AM Show 20/06/2019

Air New Zealand's next chief executive might not be a Kiwi.

The national carrier is carrying out an international hunt for its next boss, with present CEO Christopher Luxon announcing he'll be stepping down in September.

"I was in a position where I felt, after seven years, I'd done everything I wanted to do," Luxon told The AM Show on Thursday.

The search for his replacement will a global one.

"The opportunity to lead New Zealand's most iconic company will attract many great candidates both internationally and within New Zealand," said chairman Tony Carter.

But economist Shamubeel Eaqub told The AM Show on Thursday they might not need to look that far.

"They've got quite a strong leadership team at Air New Zealand, so I expect there will be internal candidates... we've had two amazing CEOs at Air New Zealand - Rob Fyfe and Chris Luxon, both respected here and internationally."

This is a job that many people would want.

Air NZ made it through the global financial crisis unscathed, said Eaqub, thanks to Luxon and Fyfe. That, combined with a pay packet upwards of $4 million a year, will attract candidates from around the world.

But whoever takes on the role won't have an easy job.

"Things are turning - they've had profit warnings pretty much all of this year, the tide is turning, it's getting tougher, the regional routes are getting more difficult," said Eaqub.

Air New Zealand's going through essentially a bit of a downturn now.

They've got some big cyclical challenges - the global economy is slowing, tourism numbers are under pressure, lots of demands within New Zealand for connectivity - because Air New Zealand's really important in terms of connecting up small centres.

"And of course, we've got the bigger challenges long-term in terms of climate change. What do we do? Aviation is a big contributor to climate change."

Luxon modestly downplayed the significance of the role, telling The AM Show Air NZ was a "tiny company" on the global stage.

There are 200 commercial airlines - we're probably the 98th largest in the world.

There is speculation Luxon will enter politics and stand for the National Party once he's done with Air NZ.

"If I was to go into politics, I've got to unlearn and learn a whole bunch of stuff, right? ... I could fail totally at it, and I'm prepared to do that."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Dan Satherley