MIAMI — Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet announced their CEO, Gregg Saretsky, retired after eight years at the helm.
The unexpected move has not been welcomed by the airline stockholders and made the company’s stock fall by 4.5% at the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Westjet has offered no explanation over Saretsky decision to retire, which has not been a good thing for the airline with speculation on why the move was made.
It is believed that the decision was made earlier this week, after WestJet’s issues with the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA). The pilot’s union said the company was attempting to bypass them, offering different working conditions for their new upcoming long-haul airline, Swoop.
WestJet has been in talks with their pilots for months; with no labor deal still being agreed, it will be the job of the new CEO, Ed Sims, to complete the task and reach an agreement.
Ed Sims said in a statement: “I am honored by the opportunity to assume the role of President and CEO and believe strongly in WestJet’s next global chapter and the growth potential ahead, WestJet has a strong challenger’s spirit, and I’m thrilled to be able to lead the team onward.”
In December 2017, Saretsky suggested in an interview with Bloomberg, WestJet was in no rush to get a labor agreement with its pilots: “JetBlue has been in negotiation for five years with its pilot groups since they unionized with ALPA, and still there is no agreement, which might be the case here too.”
It is believed that these comments have shown him as an “unusually aggressive stance” and caused the board to make a move to push him out.
While this is just speculation, it is a good guess after airline’s spokeswoman, Lauren Stewart, said in an email on Thursday that “WestJet remain committed to engaging in constructive dialogue with ALPA and we are optimistic we will come to a fair and reasonable agreement.”
However, the only thing that’s clear is the airline has a lot of work to do, especially if they want to be successful with their long-haul airline Swoop.
The new airline is expected to take delivery of its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to be launched in June. Once up and running, WestJet will become direct competitors against rival Air Canada.
WestJet will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on European low-cost carrier, Norwegian after it applied for a Canadian Service license on Tuesday this week.
While the airline has not announced any routes, the license is expected to be approved in the coming weeks, which could see the airline start flights to Canada later this year.
This will not be welcomed news for WestJet as they will most likely be receiving pressure already from other Canadian carriers such Air Transat and Air Canada Rouge.