Christopher Luxon leaves Air New Zealand next week after eight years.
He began by running the international airline, where he made big changes before being appointed to the top job. Grant Bradley looks at some of the key areas that have marked his time in the role.
A description of Luxon as commercially relentless was quickly corrected by one insider to ''commercially ruthless''. He has a formidable reputation for hard work; fellow execs who thought they'd beaten him to log in to work at dawn were invariably disappointed.
He knows one way, and that's foot-on-the-throat growth. He leaves the airline 40 per cent bigger than when he joined it.
• Luxon: What I'm doing when I leave the building
Global tailwinds helped, in some ways. Luxon took over at the start of 2013 as the airline's growth and financial trajectory was heading up, and he was there as the typically parlous state of the global airline industry was improving - even carriers in the United States were making money.
But Forsyth Barr analyst Andy Bowley describes Luxon's financial record as impressive. For seven years the return on capital has exceeded the company's minimum target of 10 per cent and there has been compound annual capacity growth of 5 per cent.
The year before Luxon's first full year in the job, net profit was $71 million.
Under Luxon it peaked at $463m in 2016 and was close to $400m for the following two years. According to Air NZ figures, during his tenure the company's value grew by 224 per cent and $1.7 billion was paid to shareholders, including $915m to the government - more than the Crown paid to bail out the airline in 2002.
Air New Zealand's share price has more than doubled since he took over, while Thomson Reuters airline index figures show that around the world, share prices have increased by 54 per cent during the past six-and-a-half years.
But there's been a sharp lesson for Luxon in the cyclical changes over the past year. Hit by higher fuel costs, ebbing demand and engine problems, Air NZ's profit declined to $270m in the past year.
That has left the airline in the unfamiliar position of having to bring in consultants to identify cost savings of about 5 per cent at head office, and jobs have gone. Luxon believed you can't cut your way to profit, but he proved early that he would swing the axe when needed.
While he was running the international airline, unprofitable routes - notably Hong Kong to London - that were bleeding up to $2 million a week were axed and new alliances launched to save money and open up new sales channels.
Luxon also repaired relationships with travel agents. He was proudly an airline outsider, coming to Air NZ after a big international career at Unilever.
When he came to the airline, he wanted to bring some of the principles of the fast moving consumer goods sector to aviation. He saw the industry as too focused on operations — rather than also finding more efficient and effective ways of selling tickets.
While tailwinds helped Air New Zealand, other airlines have benefited too.
The Kiwi airline went through its restructuring pain following its near-collapse in 2001 and was quick to get more efficient planes into its fleet, which helped early in Luxon's tenure helped.
But others are moving towards getting their businesses in shape, or have already done so, with new planes. And as the world discovered New Zealand, more than a dozen new airlines piled into Auckland in just over two years.
Salt Funds managing director Paul Harrison says the intense competition from international competitors puts Air NZ's financial performance in an even better light.
The airline has scaled back network growth, but Harrison doesn't think Luxon over-reached.
''He refocused Air New Zealand on doing what it does best - flying people to and from and around New Zealand.''
Forsyth Barr's Bowley says Luxon's successor won't have to change the strategic direction, but the less-favourable environment means the new boss will have to pull a few different levers get pre-tax profit back above $500m.
''The business he [Luxon] hands on is very different - bigger, more commercial, more profitable - to the one he inherited.''
A veteran senior staffer says the last three chief executives have fitted the airline perfectly. Banker Ralph Norris was suited to the early 2000s recovery, Rob Fyfe was able to build on a renewed customer focus and ignite interest in the airline brand, while Luxon's commercial focus was ideal for capitalising on the growth opportunities.
Harrison points out that Luxon also grasped early the connection between building and promoting the airline as a sustainable business.
''He front footed the issue of the airline's carbon footprint. He has tried hard to credibly introduce sustainability culture.''
Luxon knows that unless airlines clean up their act, they will face continued criticism from the ''no fly'' movement.
The passenger experience
Luxon once related the story of an aunty who, before he'd started the job, harangued him for two hours about a cancelled Honolulu service.
He knew he was going into a company in which which Kiwis not only had an economic stake (now 52 per cent) but also a ''spiritual'' stake too. That interest in the airline hasn't ended.
Wherever he went, people would tell him about the ''good, the bad and the ugly'' of their latest Air New Zealand experience.
That experience got ugly for some when Rolls-Royce engine problems hit nearly all Dreamliners at the end of 2017, and have only just been worked through. The airline was quick to get charter planes and there were relatively few cancellations.
Still, it wasn't ideal, and Luxon has acknowledged that the experience in the replacement aircraft was ''sub-optimal.''
Air NZ's on-time performance has only just recovered.
Just as the engine problems were out of its control, so were severe weather events (which are hitting more frequently) and the wild cards - a fuel pipeline rupturing following a bungled dig for swamp kauri.
The airline has grown rapidly and now carries 17 million passengers a year. As more travellers have graduated through miles programmes, more have access to lounges, and while it could be a case of being victim of its own success, the airline has been caught out by the surge in demand for the premium experience.
It is also playing catch-up with its business class cabins, as the top airlines that now fly here have products that offer passengers more privacy and space. Air New Zealand is about to release details of new seats soon.
Luxon has brought out the chequebook to buy new planes during his tenure, achieving narrow-body uniformity with an all-A320/21 fleet, and earlier this year more Dreamliners to take the airline into the next decades.
These are decisions where history will judge, but he's playing it safe here. The decision to opt for GE engines rather than stick with Rolls-Royce was always likely.
Dealing with the competition
There's a touch of the pugilist about Luxon: he doesn't shy from a scrap. He has talked of never losing to the Aussies at home, and although Jetstar still nibbles around the margins of New Zealand's domestic routes, it's the Koru with 80 per cent of the market that hoovers up nearly all the profit.
This week he told the story of when he first joined the airline, and Aussie politicians would razz him about Kiwis not being able to do business in Australia successfully. Now he tells them that Air New Zealand is Australia's most admired company.
This April Air NZ became the first company to achieve a "threepeat" at the top of the Reputation Institute's Australian Corporate Reputation Index, ahead of Qantas.
Guests at a function also heard how Luxon, the dealmaker, negotiated early into the morning after three days of talks to rid the airline of something Australian it didn't want. He was able to offload the bulk of its stake in Virgin Australia to Chinese conglomerate Nanshan Group in 2016, ending an unhappy equity partnership with Virgin. Air NZ took a financial hit but it could have been worse: the Australian airline's share price has halved since.
The partnership had served a purpose - it put more acid on Air NZ's then-enemy Qantas in the Australian domestic market - but then descended into a very unhappy marriage where even a codeshare deal couldn't survive. Luxon's famous feud with then-Virgin boss John Borghetti didn't help; the two were chalk and cheese.
Relations were testy with Qantas early on. Luxon once said it was ' outrageous and frankly quite offensive to be positioning Air New Zealand as a predatory state-owned airline wanting to cripple and hurt Qantas", but as commercial priorities change, so does the language.
The relationship between Qantas boss Alan Joyce and Luxon warmed steadily and last year the pair announced a ''frenemies deal'' with domestic codeshares and scope for more co-operation. Now the airlines have ''great chemistry,'' says Luxon.
Most recently, he has wound up Auckland Airport (though he denies that was the intention) with a late attempt to reboot the option of a second airport at Whenuapai. That was a sign that he's not shy of stoking the constant tension between the country's two key aviation businesses. Harrison says that sort of tension is almost inevitable - Air NZ is the biggest customer for the airport, which in turn is driven to attract more competitor airlines for the Kiwi carrier.
Air New Zealand and the high proportion of union members among its 12,500 staff have historically been at loggerheads, and frequent visitors to employment tribunals and courts. Under Luxon, it's been a largley peaceful co-existence.
Aside from a sharp pre-Christmas flare-up between the airline and engineers, things have been comparatively peaceful. Under Luxon, the airline and unions agreed to a system of High Performance Engagement (HPE), which encourages parties not to surprise each other, leave any historic animosity outside the room, talk and keep on talking.
On the face of it, HPE has largely worked. Union reps were among the guests at Luxon's farewell put on by the airline's board this week and pilots say Luxon was good at clearly explaining just how their jobs, future growth and the interests of the airline are intertwined. One union in the middle of last year's blue has praise for him - but with big riders.
''Christopher Luxon is a charismatic, energetic leader who genuinely cares for his employees and their families. However, as unions we did feel that this often came second to the focus on return on investor capital,'' says Aviation and Marine Engineers Association national secretary Jacqui Roberts.
She says Luxon appeared to have had a hands-off approach to industrial relations.
While the vision for HPE was a good one, further down the management chain some old attitudes prevailed. She says she saw Luxon about once a year.
''HPE has, from the view of employees and unions, reduced the traditional dictatorial management that had been endemic within Air New Zealand, and employees are more involved in finding solutions. However, old attitudes still exist, it has not worked everywhere, and there is some distance to go,'' says Roberts.
Bonuses which peaked at $2500 in 2016 for unionised staff were welcome.
''That made a difference to unionised employees feeling they were actually valued by the airline however there was also the view that this should have been added to their base salary rates. With Christopher, Air New Zealand has certainly became more inclusive, than exclusive, but there is a lot of work still to do,'' says Roberts.
Bonuses have sunk to just $100 and Luxon's successor will also be facing the fallout from the head office sweep consultants - which the company rarely uses. The latest group of staff facing a shakeup are in the market development and the loyalty areas. The airlne says net job loss would be very minimal, should the changes come into effect.
Under Luxon there's been a retreat from some towns: Whakatane, Westport and Kaitaia in 2015. Small, less efficient aircraft were costing the airline $1 million a month on that network.
Last year it pulled the pin on Kapiti, redeploying planes to where there was greater demand. The airline has faced continued complaints about high fares on provincial routes (try booking a late flight to Gisborne, where there's no competition), prompting a price reset earlier this year.
The airline is in a bind. The Government expects it to be run as a commercial enterprise; social considerations demand cheaper fares to the regions and more services. Luxon's friend Sir John Key (they've had a late night text and call relationship for years) called out Air New Zealand pricing in the regions for political effect when he was Prime Minister. He's now an Air NZ board member.
One relationship Luxon has found tougher to manage is the one with the self-titled champion of the regions, Shane Jones.
The NZ First member has been able to turn up the heat on Air NZ at will, and while he and Luxon may continue to spar in Parliament, one of the jobs anyone leading the airline faces is dealing with the critics over regional services.