MIAMI – Ed Sims, president and CEO of Canadian airline WestJet (WS), has announced his retirement effective at the end of this year.

Sims, who led Canada’s second-largest airline for four years, said in a video released by the carrier that he is returning home to New Zealand to be with family.

The airline said in a news release that Sims “was responsible for the successful introduction of the company’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.”

Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO (CNW Group/WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership)

Will Continue in Advisory Role

WestJet is owned by the Toronto-based private equity firm Onex Corp. Sims will remain a senior advisor with Onex Partners focused on aerospace and aviation. Its aviation investments also include Spirit Aerosystems, LSG Skychefs and Hawker Beechcraft.

“I want to thank Ed for his contributions to WestJet’s strategy and growth initiatives over the past four years,” said Chris Burley, chairman of WestJet’s board of directors. “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.”

WestJet C-FZWS Boeing 737-76N(WL). Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways

‘Prioritizing the Needs of Family’

“My time with WestJet has been an absolute career highlight and a privilege in my 35 years in the travel and aviation industries,” Sims said. “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.”

You can download a video of Sims’s announcement here. Tawfiq Popatia, a WestJet board member and senior managing director at Onex, credits Sims for WestJet’s success under challenging circumstances.

“Ed was a critical part of Onex’ investment in WestJet,” Popatia said. “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.”

WestJet’s board of directors has begun searching for a new CEO.

Sims joined WestJet in 2017 as executive vice president, commercial and became president and CEO in 2018. The next year, he led WestJet through the largest private equity deal in aviation with the purchase of by Onex.

He started in the United Kingdom travel industry and has spent more than 30 years in tourism and aviation in Europe, Australasia and North American. Prior to WestJet, Sims held senior commercial and operational leadership positions with the Tui, Thomas Cook and Virgin Groups and served for 10 years at Air New Zealand.

Featured image: WestJet Boeing 787-9. Photo: Liam Funnell/Airways