CALGARY — WestJet President and CEO Ed Sims has announced his retirement at the end of the year, a decision he says was spurred by his desire to reunite with family in New Zealand.
Sims has spent four years at WestJet’s helm, during which he was responsible for the successful introduction of the airline’s Boeing 787 long-haul aircraft, the launch of two new airline ventures, the significant expansion of WestJet’s international network, as well as the continued growth of WestJet Vacations, WestJet Cargo and the WestJet Rewards program.
He will remain as President and Chief Executive, as well as a member of the WestJet Group board of directors until December 2021. Moving forward, he will continue in a senior advisory role with Onex Partners focused on aerospace and aviation.
In a video message, Sims stressed the importance of family and how the pandemic has served as a “powerful reminder that family matters and comes first.” He plans to return to his home in New Zealand where two of his children, who he hasn’t seen in two years, currently live.
“Family has always been important for me and the pandemic has served to underscore the need to be reconnected in person,” 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. I would like to thank WestJet’s founder Clive Beddoe, Onex and past and current board members and my Executive Leadership team who have all been tremendously supportive. My special thanks go to the remarkable group of people who call themselves WestJetters for everything they have achieved.”
Chris Burley, Chairman of WestJet’s board of directors, added: “I want to thank Ed for his contributions to WestJet’s strategy and growth initiatives over the past four years. 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 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.”
WestJet board member and Senior Managing Director at Onex Tawfiq Popatia also added his heartfelt thanks, saying Sims was a “critical” part of Onex’s investment in WestJet.
“With the WestJet transaction closing in December 2019 and the pandemic hitting Canada in February the following year, we had only a few weeks between closing and the onset of the pandemic and it’s hard to overstate the importance of Ed’s leadership through this exceptionally challenging period. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Ed,” said Popatia.
The board of directors of WestJet has commenced a search for a new Chief Executive Officer.