WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky suddenly quits

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      The man in command of Canada's second-largest airline has flown the coop.

      Gregg Saretsky suddenly resigned today as president and CEO of WestJet in the midst of negotiations with pilots.

      The company called it a "retirement" in a news release issued this morning.

      WestJet hired him in 2009 as vice president of WestJet Vacations and he became president and CEO in 2010.

      "Gregg has taken WestJet to new heights during his tenure and the airline would not be in the strong position it is without Gregg's business knowledge, drive and work ethic, and his focus on low costs," WestJet chair Clive Beddoe said in a news release. "On behalf of the board, we sincerely thank Gregg for all of his contributions to WestJet. We wish him well in his retirement."

      Saretsky was born in 1959 and graduated from the University of British Columbia with a bachelor of science degree in microbiology and a master's in business administration.

      His first major position in the industry was as a route development planner with Canadian Airlines before rising to become vice president of airports and marketing with the now-defunct carrier. He joined Alaska Airlines in 1998.

      Saretsky has been replaced by Ed Sims, who was hired nine months ago and was the executive vice president commercial with WestJet.

      During Saretsky's tenure as president and CEO, WestJet's fleet doubled in size as he introduced rewards programs and the company negotiated code-share agreements with international air carriers.

      He also oversaw the launch of WestJet's ultra-low-cost carrier called Swoop last month. It hired Steven Greenway as president, effective March 5.

      WestJet launched its no-frills ultra-low-cost subsidiary, Swoop, on February 1.

      But things were not so rosy for Saretsky when it came to labour relations.

      In May of 2017, nearly two-thirds of WestJet pilots voted to join the Air Line Pilots Association International.

      Last summer, Saretsky alienated the labour movement when he accused unions of being businesses that are focused on growing revenue by recruiting new members.

      "WestJet represents an opportunity to increase their profits," the then WestJet CEO told employees in response to organizing drives by the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

      "They get nearly $17 million of your money, or $425 million of your money over a 25-year career," Saretsky wrote at the time. "What do you get? That's the question we urge you to ask yourselves. Isn't it better to get a cheque than a bill?"

      CUPE national president Mark Hancock responded by saying that CUPE locals have "full autonomy" in deciding their structure, dues, bylaws, internal processes, and which other organizations they want to be affiliated with.