WestJet has announced that CEO Ed Sims will retire by the end of 2021, bringing to the end his four years of service. During Sims’ tenure, the airline has transformed from a low-cost carrier to a long-haul airline with a fleet of Boeing 787s. WestJet has begun the process of looking for a new CEO to lead the airline.
In a statement today, WestJet confirmed that President and CEO Ed Sims will resign at the end of December 2021. The announcement brings to an end this chapter of Sims’ 35-year- long aviation career, which spans across the UK, New Zealand, and Canada.
Ed Sims first joined WestJet in 2017, serving as Executive Vice President of Commercial, under then-CEO Gregg Saretsky. One year later, Sims took over as President and CEO of the airline, kicking off a rapid expansion in 2018.
Perhaps the two most notable changes during Sims’ tenure have been WestJet’s induction of the Boeing 787 and the airline’s return to profitability. In May 2018, the carrier ordered its first Dreamliner and began plans to fly long-haul services to Europe and beyond. The carrier kicked off its first 787-9 route from Calgary to London Gatwick in April 2019, with more routes following afterward.
The second big change was WestJet’s return to profitability. During his first quarter as CEO, Sims oversaw WestJet’s first-ever loss in 13 years year. The next two years saw the carrier turn around its finances and return to sustained profitability once again. However, all of this changed with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Following his retirement, Ed Sims plans to move to investment firm Onex Partners as senior advisor to the aerospace and aviation division. Onex purchased WestJet in late 2019 for C$5 billion ($4.12bn), a deal Sims played a major role in.
Sims’ retirement from WestJet also carries a personal note. With his family living in New Zealand, he has been unable to meet them for two years due to strict border closures. In a statement today, he said,
“My time with WestJet has been an absolute career highlight and a privilege in my 35 years in the travel and aviation industries…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 prioritizing the needs of family who I will not have seen in two years…My special thanks go to the remarkable group of people who call themselves WestJetters for everything they have achieved.”
The board of directors of WestJet has begun the process of looking for Sims’ replacement as CEO. For now, the airline is hoping that its domestic recovery picks up steam as it looks to stem losses. This week’s news of Canada easing border restrictions for vaccinated international travelers will also be a huge boost for the airline, which has laid off thousands of employees over the last year.