Aviation StraightTalk Live with WestJet CEO, Ed Sims

The following is an excerpt from an interview that took place on March 2, 2021. WestJet CEO Ed Sims talks about the Canadian airline industry. In the section below, Ed talks about the outsourcing of WestJet jobs and boasts that for the past 15 years, all of WestJet United States operated using the outsourcing model without any adverse effect on the brand.

Andrew Charlton, journalist and Aviation Advocacy MD

We got away from horizontal investment

WestJet CEO, Ed Sims

I think there is an argument to consolidate the foundations of the aviation industry, to remove the boundaries between airlines, airports, air traffic control and actually say how do we all have common objectives and how do we all have financial skin in the game to encourage each other

Andrew Charlton, journalist and Aviation Advocacy MD

This is a really interesting subject because one of the things we seem to have seen as airlines are cutting costs and so forth increasingly their outsourcing, they’re retrenching their own stuff and then outsourcing ground handling and check-in facilities and so on and it’s one of the classic low-cost carriers sort of models. So I was going to ask you how skinny do you think an airline has to be to still be an airline? Does it have to have its own reservation system? Well, clearly not. Does it have to have its own cabin crew? What do you think is the core of an airline? And then, well, I was going to ask you that question, but I think your answer is that we got to think about it as the core of an aviation industry as one single thing.

WestJet CEO, Ed Sims

Ya, that is my view that I think there should be co-investment right across infrastructure in a country that you know. I come back to saying we’ve only got 36 million people and the second-largest geography in the world to support.

So, I think having that co-investment that position of equity and therefore and all working towards the greater good of the growth of aviation of Canadian aviation for me is more important than who writes the paycheck for the individual because that’s the key to supporting growth.

The aviation industry in Canada supports around a quarter of a million jobs directly and around three-quarters of a million jobs indirectly, its that indirect number that actually, for me, is a more powerful motivator than those people who are necessarily on the WestJet books.

Sadly, during the crisis, I mentioned that we dropped from fourteen thousand down to about four thousand staff. We have outsourced our airports, all but our four major hub airports, and we’ve outsourced a lot of our contact centre support work and closed contact centres.

I would argue we’ve had outsourced suppliers in the US for the last 15 years while we’ve been operating to the US with no detriment to our net promotor score whatsoever.

So, I think there are services where provided you work closely enough with your contractor partners, there is absolutely no dichotomy in your brand proposition, and your brand delivery and those are areas worth exploring.

End of video excerpt


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