WestJet chief executive and president Ed Sims will retire at the end of the year, citing family reasons.
The Calgary-headquartered airline says on 9 June that after he leaves the airline in December, Sims will continue in a “senior advisory role” with WestJet owner Onex Partners, focused on aerospace and aviation.
WestJet has launched a search for a new CEO.
“My time with WestJet has been an absolute career highlight and a privilege in my 35 years in the travel and aviation industries,” Sims says. “The global pandemic and the ongoing travel restrictions have separated so many of us for so long from loved ones. With two children in New Zealand, I am prioritising the needs of family who I will not have seen in two years.”
“The pandemic has underscored the need to be reconnected in person,” he adds in a video message.
Sims has been the airline’s CEO since 2017, and also led the carrier as it was acquired by Onex in 2019, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic bought global air travel to a near standstill.
Strict travel restrictions in Canada – both on federal and provincial levels - have made the past year and a half particularly difficult for the country’s air carriers. WestJet and Montreal-based peers Air Canada and Transat AT have criticised Canada’s federal government for its reluctance to provide financial relief to airlines.
In January, at the request of the government, the airlines agreed to temporarily suspend operations to southern sun destinations during the all-important and usually lucrative spring break period, when thousands of winter-weary Canadians head to beach vacations in the southern USA, Mexico and the Caribbean. WestJet resumed flying a limited schedule to those destinations on 5 June, but the border between Canada and the USA remains closed to non-essential travel.
In his video message, Sims strikes an optimistic tone for the future.
”For more than 15 months we have operated with a significantly reduced network and we have said goodbye to many of our colleges,” Sims says. “With the hard work and determination of our people we will come back stronger than ever.”