Aviation

The former CEO of Austrian Airlines is starting a new job at WestJet

The Canadian airline WestJet is the new responsible person. Alexis von Honsbruch was appointed its next Chief Executive Officer (CEO) back in December 2021, but has just taken up his new post due to COVID-19 and complications with Canadian immigration law.

Mr. von Hönsbruch formerly CEO of Austrian Airlines, a member of Lufthansa Group companies. The newly appointed CEO replaces interim WestJet CEO Harry Taylor, who will return to his permanent role as executive vice president and chief financial officer of the airline. Taylor himself took over as interim CEO when Ed Sims, chairman and CEO of Westjet, resigned in late 2021.

An experienced aviation professional

51 years old, Mr. von Honsbroch brings to his new job a steady track record in commercial aviation. After receiving his doctorate in physics, he spent his early career working with the renowned international consulting firm The Boston Consulting Group. Based in Munich and then in Tokyo, Mr. von Honsbroch specialized in advising clients in the aviation sector.

After working as a management consultant, Mr. von Honsbroch joined Lufthansa in 2005 as head of the strategy and investment department, taking responsibility for various development projects of the German national airline. He then became head of the commercial department at Lufthansa’s largest operations center, Frankfurt, before being appointed head of Lufthansa Cargo AG.

Before starting with WestJet in Calgary this week, Mr. von Honsbruch has been the CEO of Austrian Airlines since 2018. In this position, he oversaw the restructuring of the airline’s operations, fleet and network, primarily to meet growing competition from low-cost carriers entering the airline’s major Eastern European markets. In recent years, both Wizz and Ryanair have encroached on territory of Austrian origin, especially after the death of Air Berlin in 2017.

Starting a new position at WestJet, Mr von Honsbroch said:

“As WestJet Group moves to its next head, I am excited to join this dedicated team at such a critical time. As we move forward, more than 8,500 WestJet and Swoop employees have shown remarkable resilience and determination over the past two years. Together we will emerge from the pandemic. stronger and I’m excited to work with this incredible band as we take WestJet and Swoop to new heights. ”

Welcoming the new airline leader on board, Charlie Burley, chairman of WestJet’s board of directors, replied:

“I am pleased to officially welcome Alexis to WestJet Group at this crucial time for business. With extensive experience in aviation and managing the global airline during the pandemic, we are confident that under Alexis’s leadership his vision will accelerate the development of WestJet Group’s Recovery ”.

A busy first week at WestJet

This week Mr. von Honsbroch came to his new table at WestJet headquarters in Calgary with a full tray. Many factors mean that his first few weeks at work will definitely be busy.

Canada has just announced lifting restrictions for travelers from February 28, 2022. This is undoubtedly good news for all airlines operating flights to and from Canada, but especially for WestJet, which along with Air Canada has been lobbying the Canadian government for easing restrictions in recent weeks.

WestJet 737 MAX

WestJet has been tense lately. Photo: WestJet

Faces increasing competition across Canada

However, the CEO and his top management of WestJet face a number of commercial challenges that will undoubtedly occupy high positions on the agenda of internal meetings.


First, last week the airline announced reduction of flights around its network by 20% from now until the end of March due to the constant impact of the Omicron option, which reduces the demand for air travel. Omicron prevalence and effect on staff illness meant that WestJet was forced to cancel 15% of its flights in January alone. Nature has also affected work recently: seasonal storms have stopped flights.

Although the situation is steadily improving, there is still some way before the airline really gets on the road to recovery and the number of passengers returns to the level it was before COVID-19.

Second, the airline faces stiff competition on some key routes from two destroyers operating in the Canadian airline market.

Flair and Lynx are looking to capture market share

Flair Airlines is already up and running, providing an ultra-expensive service on a variety of routes that are currently also serviced by WestJet. This carrier, which began operating passenger services in 2005, is not ashamed of its future ambitions. According to planespotters.netalthough Flair currently operates only 12 Boeing 737s, it aims to increase them to 50 aircraft by 2025. Although the airline has many international routes, it still focuses on domestic operations: 82% of its seats will be sold in May 2022. provided exclusively on domestic services.

Flair 737 MAX

The Flair fleet revolves around the B737 MAX. Photo: Flair Airlines

Meanwhile, another superb startup is expected to join the fight soon. Lynx recently announced the first seven routes to be served after commissioning in April 2022. The airline will fly from Calgary to Toronto, Winnipeg, Kelauna and Vancouver – all routes currently operated by WestJet. It will also fly from Kelowna and Toronto to Vancouver and Vancouver to Winnipeg, all of which are current WestJet routes.

WestJet defends its position

WestJet has good opportunities to defend its position in the Canadian domestic market through its own offerings as well as the offerings of its inexpensive subsidiary Swoop. Swoop itself has announced the launch of a number of new routes in recent days to strengthen its position across Canada and North America.

However, because the legacy of COVID-19 still influences the desire to travel in Canada and beyond, every airline, including WestJet, will have to travel an extra mile to once again attract passengers into the air.


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https://simpleflying.com/westjet-new-ceo/ The former CEO of Austrian Airlines is starting a new job at WestJet

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