A long list to take the reins at Virgin Australia has begun to take shape with former Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour and Westpac executive George Frazis some of the names under consideration to succeed chief executive John Borghetti.
Sources with detailed knowledge of the Virgin board's deliberations told Fairfax Media that Tigerair chief executive Merren McArthur and group executive Rob Sharp are the two most likely internal candidates to be considered for the position.
Mr Borghetti, who joined Virgin in 2010 after losing the top job at Qantas to Alan Joyce, announced in June he would not renew his contract after it expired at the end of next year.
But Mr Borghetti is likely to leave sooner, and has already expressed his desire to leave as Virgin's numerous international owners tussle over the direction of the airline.
Mr Frazis, who run's Westpac's consumer bank, is understood to be extremely well regarded by Virgin executives and has significant experience in aviation having worked in the RAAF and at Air New Zealand, before joining Ansett eight months before its collapse.
Mr Borghetti's successor will have to deal with Virgin's major shareholders including China's HNA Group and Singapore Airlines, with another, Etihad, pondering selling its stake in the company.
A Virgin Australia spokeswoman said the airline had "two headhunters conducting a global search".
"We are looking both internally and externally, and while we believe there will be great interest in the role, we will not be drawn on speculation," she said.
Another possible leadership contender, former group executive John Thomas, who abruptly departed last year after running Virgin's domestic and international operations, is understood not to be a contender for the position.
Mr Fahour, Virgin insiders said, would likely be considered but is expected to regard himself as a contender to replace Mr Joyce as Qantas chief executive.
Mr Fahour had some experience with airfreight in his previous role at Australia Post, yesterday announcing he was leaving day-to-day operations at Pro-Pac, after a poor financial result.
Mr Fahour will remain non-executive chairman.
Virgin forecasts it will be profitable next year, after reporting an underlying $109 million profit before tax for the year to June 30 and a statutory loss after tax of $653 million.
Kylar is The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age's CBD columnist. He recently covered federal politics, business and NSW politics for News Corp.