Virgin Blue co-founder and first CEO Brett Godfrey this morning resigned from its board to join  arch rival and former Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon at Tourism Australia, where Dixon is the deputy chairman.

Godfrey has equity in Virgin Blue but indicated by text message that he saw it as important to give back something to a tourism industry that had given a lot to the carrier that started with two jets almost 10 years ago and now had a fleet of 85 airliners.

Observers have privately speculated on a merging of purpose by Godfrey and Dixon since his farewell party in Sydney on May 5, where the latter fascinated guests by delivering a speech describing how he had passionately plotted Virgin Blue’s destruction, only to “fail miserably”.

What the two most successful airline CEOs in the history of Australian airlines might do in concert with the body charged with growing inbound as well as domestic tourism is not known, but it won’t be lacking in spectacle or clout.

It also means Godfrey is  being heard again, just when regime change at Virgin Blue under new CEO and former Dixon associate  John Borghetti  is in high gear purging some of his closer associates and appointees and other traces of “the past”.

Godfrey referred on his resigning as Virgin Blue CEO that he had several things to do that he would announce later in the year, and indicated an intention to remain a director of WestJet, the Canadian upstart low-cost carrier that is taking market share off its legacy flag carrier, Air Canada, as fast as it can put more Boeing 737s into service.

Dixon was the first Australian airline CEO to make more than $1 billion in profits before tax, and Godfrey, apart from ensuring he did it only once, implemented a business plan at Virgin Blue that made Richard Branson many hundreds of millions of dollars from related transactions.

Peter Fray

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