Between 2001 and his retirement in 2009, Geoff Dixon was, in cash terms, the highest paid airline executive in the world. In 2008, shortly before his retirement, Dixon was paid $12.1 million. This included a "retention payment" of $4.5 million. Clearly, the retention payment did not have the desired effect with Dixon’s services retained for less than one year. In 2009, even though Dixon only worked for three months, he received "base pay" of $1.9 million and total remuneration of $10.7 million.

That seems like an awful lot of money for four months' work -- especially since Dixon's successor, Alan Joyce, received a fixed salary of $1.7 million and total remuneration of a miserly $3.7 million (a drop of 28%). Somewhat unusually, Qantas felt the need to pay Dixon more than $3 million to compensate him for changes to superannuation laws as well as a $657,000 termination payment. The termination payment was especially generous given that Dixon wasn’t terminated, but rather, he left in a huff when his potential private equity riches evaporated. (Dixon wasn’t the only very well remunerated Qantas executive -- the affable Kevin Brown, Qantas head of Human Resources, was paid more than $7 million for 18 months' work until February 2009. His role primarily consisted of sacking workers and ensuring that Dixon was very well paid).

Despite the largesse handed to Dixon, Qantas' performance in recent times has hardly been outstanding. Last year, Qantas’ profit slumped 88% to $117 million. Had it not been for its frequent-flyer scheme (which Dixon wanted to sell), the business would have recorded a loss last year (Qantas still delivered a second-half pre-tax loss of $107 million). Qantas share price has fallen from a peak of more than $6 in early 2007 to a low of $1.38 in March -- Qantas has since recovered to $2.78. When Dixon became CEO in 2001, Qantas' share price was more than $3.