WestJet Airlines is looking for a new chief executive officer (CEO) after the airline announced Wednesday that the current head of the company will retire at the end of the year.
The Calgary-based airline announced Wednesday that president and chief executive officer Ed Sims will retire from his roles as president, CEO and member of the company's board of directors in December 2021. After that, he will continue to work in a "senior advisory role" with Onex Corp., the private equity firm that owns WestJet, focused on aerospace and aviation.
WestJet has started a search for a new CEO, the company said.
"Ed was a critical part of Onex' investment in WestJet," Tawfiq Popatia, senior managing director at Onex and a WestJet board member, said in a statement.
"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."
Sims first joined WestJet in May 2017 and stepped into the role of CEO in 2018 after the abrupt retirement of former CEO Gregg Saretsky.
Under Sims' leadership, the airline embarked on an ambitious strategy, seeking growth through international expansion while also launching an ultra-low-cost carrier, Swoop. The airline was also purchased by Onex for $5 billion including debt and then taken private. The deal closed shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and devastated the airline industry, bringing global traffic to a virtual standstill.
In a statement, the airline credited Sims for the launch of Boeing's 787 long-haul aircraft, the launch of Swoop, as well as the expansion of WestJet's international network.
Originally from New Zealand, Sims said he will be rejoining his family, who remain in his home country.
"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 in a statement.
"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."
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.