Air New Zealand boss Luxon resigns, could pursue politics

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Air New Zealand Chief Executive Christopher Luxon said Wednesday he’s resigning after seven years in the top job at the national carrier.

Many people have speculated that Luxon has political ambitions, and that he would be a natural fit with the conservative National Party that was ousted from power in 2017 by a liberal coalition led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Luxon said he will take some time to reflect on what he will do next, and that his future work options include corporate life, nonprofits and politics.

“I know I am going to get a lot of questions about where to next for me,” Luxon, 48, said in a statement.

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He said that with both his children finishing high school, he and wife Amanda would have “a new degree of freedom, including career choices.”

With an election looming next year, the National Party is worried about the performance of its leader Simon Bridges, who has struggled to gain traction since taking the reins after the last election. Recent polls indicate he has only a fraction of the support that Ardern enjoys, although his party as a whole remains popular and competitive with Ardern’s.

Still, should Luxon decide to pursue politics, it would be unusual for any new candidate to rise immediately to a leadership role before first serving for several years in the Parliament.

Before joining the airline to manage its international arm in 2011, Luxon served as president and chief executive of Unilever’s Canadian business.

He said he will step down as CEO in September but will keep an advisory role at the airline. Chairman Tony Carter said the airline was searching for his replacement and expected to be able to make an announcement “in the near future.”

Air New Zealand is 52% owned by the New Zealand government. The airline serves about 17 million passengers each year with a fleet of 115 planes.

In its most recent annual results, the company reported a before-tax profit of 540 million New Zealand dollars ($353 million), it’s second-highest profit ever. As a result, it awarded 8,500 staff bonuses of up to NZ$1,800 each.

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