WestJet’s new CEO inherits a full plate, but building corporate share will remain a priority 

13 March, 2018

Many theories have arisen after WestJet’s CEO Gregg Saretsky abruptly announced his retirement on 8-Mar-2018, but his successor, Ed Sims, has made expanding WestJet’s corporate share a priority since joining the airline in May-2017.

Mr Saretsky oversaw WestJet during a pivotal point in the airline’s history. During his tenure, WestJet launched a regional subsidiary Encore, introduced trans-Atlantic widebody flights and opted to create a ULCC, Swoop, to combat the aspiring ultra low cost upstarts that have been attempting to penetrate the Canadian market for the last three years.

But the rapid business transformation created employee dissonance at WestJet. In late 2017 after a years long effort, pilots at WestJet opted to join the Air Line Pilots International (ALPA in late 2017. In early Mar-2018, CBCnews reported that a Canadian labour board ordered WestJet to cease recruiting mainline pilots through a two year leave of absence to fly for Swoop. According to the publication, ALPA claimed WestJet was attempting to lure pilots to Swoop under different working conditions.

Mr Saretsky’s replacement is Ed Sims, who was previously CEO of New Zealand’s air navigation service provider. He also held positions at Tui, Thomas Cook, Virgin Group and Air New Zealand.

Mr Sims takes the reins at WestJet as the company is undergoing a major transition – preparing for the 2018 launch of Swoop and the introduction of Boeing 787-9 widebodies in 2018.

But since his arrival at the airline, Mr Sims has openly talked about WestJet’s efforts to bolster its share among corporate travellers. He has stated WestJet is “severely under indexed” among Canadian business travellers, noting the airline’s share in late 2017 was 23% to 24%.

One way WestJet has worked to attractive more lucrative business travellers is working to improve connectivity through its hubs. In early 2018, Mr Sims remarked that the number of connections over the airline’s key hubs of Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary are growing by double digits every month.

“It’s improving our reach to premium travellers, from whom schedule is an absolute prerequisite and key criteria,” said Mr Sims.

WestJet’s newly anointed CEO obviously is inheriting a full plate with the launch of Swoop, new generation widebodies and a somewhat disgruntled labour force. But expanding corporate share will no doubt remain a priority as Mr Sims navigates WestJet through the next chapter in its history.