Jump to content

Westjet Chief Saretsky’S Smoother Flight Path


Recommended Posts


WestJet chief Saretsky’s smoother flight path

June 9, 2012 – Financial Post

Scott Deveau

At the top of a laundry list of priorities for WestJet Airlines Ltd.’s chief executive Gregg Saretsky last year was building a back-up for the company’s computer and communication systems.

It was perhaps not as sexy as the behind-the-scenes work that was being done to launch WestJet’s new regional carrier. But after 27 years in the business, he knew it was much more essential.

‘With Saretsky, it’s just bang, bang, bang, bang … you’ve got a much better run airline today’

At the time, all the company’s information, from payroll to flight schedules, was being stored at WestJet’s headquarters, which happens to be situated at the end of a runway in Calgary.

“We had a single-point of failure,” Mr. Saretsky said during an interview at the WestJet campus in May. “God forbid you have an aircraft go careening off. Our data centre is attached to our hangar, which is right there on the apron. That could have wiped out communications and our computer system. No computer system, no airline.”

Even if there were an extended power blackout, WestJet would have been in trouble. So, Mr. Saretsky set building a back-up system far away in Toronto as his primary focus for 2011.

“We [now] have complete duplication and redundancy of function,” he said. “So, if anything happens here, we’ve got it there. If anything happens there, we have it here.”

It was just the latest in a string of initiatives Mr. Saretsky has undertaken and successfully executed on since he was appointed CEO of the airline in April 2010.

While WestJet has long been the preferred airline for investors in Canada, prior to his appointment, it was starting to garner a bit of a reputation for overpromising and under-delivering.

The bulk of that stemmed from the trouble the company faced implementing its new reservation system, which was hit with successive delays and pushed out other initiatives like its frequent flyer program and various code-share agreements it had promised investors repeatedly were just around the corner.

When the reservation system was finally installed, the company was unable to transfer some of its existing reservations to a new system, leading to long wait times at call centres and damaging the company’s cherished reputation for customer service.

At that point, while WestJet was consistently turning a profit, many began to wonder whether it was living up to its potential.

When it was announced the company’s CEO Sean Durfy would be stepping down three years into his five-year contract, the timing might have been a surprise, but the change at the top wasn’t.

“This airline was populated by individuals who didn’t have airline backgrounds, and so they didn’t know what they didn’t know,”


Link to comment
Share on other sites

"....a simple message WestJet consistently impresses upon its employees: Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of the business. The business will take care of shareholders. When the shareholders are happy, the company is doing well, that allows it to grow, which takes care of employees."


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...