Canada’s WestJet nabs Austrian Airlines boss for CEO role

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Canadian carrier WestJet has named Alexis von Hoensbroech, currently head of Austrian Airlines, as its new chief executive.   

WestJet said it made the hire following a “global search” and hailed von Hoensbroech’s experience in dealing with competition from low-cost carriers in Europe.  

“Alexis understands WestJet’s low-cost roots and the importance of cost competitiveness in our vision for the future,” Chris Burley, Chairman of WestJet’s board of directors, said in a statement on December 17, 2021. “While at Austrian Airlines, Alexis refocused the airline on its core business, lowering its cost base to address rising competition from ultra-low-cost carriers.” 

Austrian Airlines has seen increased competition, both at its Vienna hub and in its core central and eastern European markets, from the likes of Wizz and Ryanair, especially after the collapse of Air Berlin (AB1) in 2017. Von Hoensbroech became chief executive at Austrian Airlines, part of the Lufthansa Group, in 2018.  

Von Hoensbroech’s start date at WestJet has not yet been confirmed because he needs to complete the immigration process to take up the role in Calgary, Canada. WestJet said it expected that to be done before the end of the first quarter of 2022.  

“I am very much looking forward to working with the management team, the Board and all WestJetters and Swoopsters to write the next chapter of this success story, as the airline emerges from the pandemic,” von Hoensbroech commented.  

Until von Hoensbroech can start, Harry Taylor will continue as interim CEO, before resuming his role as chief financial officer.  

Who else is moving at Lufthansa Group?  

Von Hoensbroech will be replaced at Austrian Airlines by Annette Mann, currently Head of Corporate Responsibility at Lufthansa Group, as of March 1 2022. 

Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) also announced several other management changes within the group.  Jens Ritter, currently chief operating officer of low-cost unit Eurowings, will become new CEO of Lufthansa Airlines as of April 1, 2022.  

Ritter replaces Klaus Froese, who returns to flying as a captain for Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA), including on the Boeing 787 aircraft that Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) is due to take delivery of in 2022.  

Jörg Beißel, head of corporate controlling at the Lufthansa Group, will become CFO of Lufthansa Airlines from April 1 2022, succeeding Patrick Staudacher. 

“I am pleased that we were able to fill all positions from within Lufthansa Group – it confirms our successful personnel and leadership development,” highlighted Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa Group, in a December 17, 2021 statement.

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