John Borghetti

Honorary Doctor of Laws

Citation delivered by Professor John Glynn, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of John Borghetti as a Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) on 24 July 2014.

Chancellor, I present John Borghetti.

Today we celebrate the achievements of John Borghetti, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the Virgin Australia Group of Airlines, who has made a significant impact on the Australian aviation industry and on business leadership over a four-decade career.

Emigrating from Marta, Italy, John’s family settled in Melbourne when he was seven years old. At the early age of ten, working in the family-owned coffee shop and restaurant in Bourke Street in Melbourne (when not in school), John was fortunate to learn from his hard-working Father the importance of exceptional customer service, understanding how to respond to a person’s needs and building mutually rewarding relationships.

John joined Qantas in 1973 and his distinguished career with the airline saw him rise to Executive General Manager in 2003, responsible for Qantas Domestic, International and QantasLink. Commencing as Virgin Australia CEO and Managing Director in May 2010, John’s ability to grow and steer ideas, his conviction, and his ability to reinvent, have been credited as the keys to his success in bringing competition to the industry and in lowering airfares.

Despite a challenging economic, regulatory and competitive environment, John has overseen significant progress and change to Virgin Australia’s strategic direction, transforming the airline’s branding and positioning whilst forging important strategic alliances and growing passenger numbers. The airline and its staff have won various prestigious awards for service and it is thanks to John’s endeavours that Virgin Australia is now a global network with nearly 500 destinations.

John also provides his business expertise to other organisations. He is a Director of Energy Australia, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Chairman of Tigerair Australia and has previously served as a Director of Jetset Travelworld, Sydney FC, Piper Aircraft (USA), the Australian Ballet and CARE Australia. It is his leadership attributes that brought John Borghetti to the University’s attention. His commitment to collegial leadership, to ongoing staff development and talent recognition is well known and admired. John sees his role as CEO is to provide inspiration and hope for his employees, to lead by example and to remember that the fundamental focus for any business should be on people. John‘s vision and ability to successfully guide an organisation mirrors the University of Wollongong’s aim to build professional excellence and enhance responsible business leadership, through its Faculty of Business and Law.

It is publicly known that John has a passion for a particular luxury Italian automotive brand, to the extent that their racing-car seats were used in 2011 as inspiration for the airline’s elegant redesign of business and economy class seats. Perhaps less known is his desire to do the best he can for family and friends and his appreciation and gratitude towards his parents for the values and work ethic instilled in him in his early years. John has personally participated in initiatives such as the Vinnies CEO Sleepout and has ensured Virgin Australia’s continuing dedication to a number of philanthropic community partnerships supporting youth at risk in Australia.

Chancellor, for his outstanding contribution to business leadership, it is my honour and pleasure to present John Borghetti for the award of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.