It is an admission of just how toxic he has become to the Qantas brand that chief executive Alan Joyce has announced his abrupt departure from the airline. Aside from the Qantas board and shareholders, few so far seem to be lamenting the end of Mr Joyce's 15-year reign at the airline. It seems that legal action launched by the consumer watchdog over allegations that the carrier continued to sell tickets for more than 8000 flights even after they had been cancelled became one PR disaster too many for the company. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's action followed Mr Joyce's inquisition by a Senate committee over a litany of the airline's recent failings, including sky-high rates of flight cancellations (particularly affecting travellers to and from Canberra), poor customer service (all that lost luggage), its handling of flight credits, its treatment of staff and its action to stymie competition. This is even before getting to the poor optics of declaring a $2.47 billion profit while refusing to hand back more than $720 million in JobKeeper subsidies - payments it claimed despite axing more than 8500 jobs during the pandemic. Explaining his early departure, Mr Joyce implicitly acknowledged that he has become a significant liability for the company. "The best thing I can do under these circumstances is to bring forward my retirement and hand over to Vanessa and the new management team now," he said. Qantas chairman and close ally Richard Goyder paid tribute to Mr Joyce as someone who has "always had the best interests of Qantas front and centre". READ MORE: Certainly, the interests of customers often seem to have been subordinate, such as when the Qantas boss abruptly grounded all domestic and international flights in October 2011 in the midst of an industrial dispute with employees - a ruthless decision that left thousands stranded. The airline will be hoping that Mr Joyce's departure provides it with the clear air it needs to begin rebuilding its reputation. But this may be wishful thinking. The stench surrounding the controversial decision to block a bid by rival carrier Qatar Airways to operate extra flights into Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will continue to envelope Qantas and the federal government. Explanations for the decision have veered between protecting the viability of Qantas and a vaguely defined "national interest". Most recently, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told Parliament airline access was a matter decided between countries and there was "nothing unusual" about the move to knock back Qatar's bid. But it does sit awkwardly with the government's claims to be acting to drive down living costs and boost competition. Mr Joyce's retirement will not end the turbulence the government is currently encountering.