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A WestJet 787-9 prepares for a test flight at Paine Field. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

WestJet CEO Set to Retire at End of 2021 After Decades in Industry

WestJet announced on Wednesday that President and CEO Ed Sims is expected to retire at the end of this year after being with the airline and holding the position for four years. Sims will continue in a senior advisory role with Onex Partners, focusing on aerospace and aviation.

With Sims at the reins, the airline managed to maintain its status of being Canada’s second-largest carrier while expanding its route network both domestically and internationally. The carrier also joined the group of airlines that introduced the cutting-edge Boeing 787 Dreamliner into its long-haul fleet, mainly for its transatlantic operations. 

“I want to thank Ed for his contributions to WestJet’s strategy and growth initiatives over the past four years,” Chris Burley, Chairman of WestJet’s board of directors, said in a published statement. “Ed has led WestJet through the worst crisis in aviation history and will see us through to the end of 2021. We owe our relative strength and stability in no small measure to Ed’s leadership and a steady hand. On a personal note, we’re pleased that Ed will be able to rejoin his family in New Zealand at the end of the year.”   

The carrier also recently recovered from the effects of Covid-19, adding 11 new routes to its domestic route network, while Canada continued to uphold strict travel restrictions and stringent entry requirements for international travelers. Sims will serve the remainder of his time with WestJet until December 2021, while continuing to be a member of the WestJet Group board of directors.

Domestic Network Expansion

While the U.S.-Canada border closure was recently extended to June 21 after being lengthened numerous times, the Calgary-based carrier will be inaugurating 11 new domestic routes across Western Canada at the end of June, after initially announcing the flight schedule earlier in the spring. The airline plans to connect its bases to 15 communities across four provinces in Western Canada and one province in Eastern Canada.

“As we look to the coming months with cautious optimism, we know our restart agenda will be pivotal to Canada’s economic recovery. Stimulating air travel benefits all Canadians and supports those hardest hit; with one in every 10 Canadian jobs tied to travel and tourism, the ripple effect benefits our whole country. We are at an inflection point; one that is buoyed by the rollout of vaccines, months of learning how to take appropriate precautions, and a view to Canada’s beautiful summer months that allows us to spend more time outdoors,” Sims said, a sentiment that contributed to the airline pumping hundreds of seats in an effort to better establish connectivity across the country and recover from Covid-19 losses.

Sims’ time with WestJet shaped the airline’s business decisions and operations in Canada. Now, it is essential for the airline to find Sims’ successor to fill the gap and carry on the airline’s recovery from Covid-19 as well as the future.

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