Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Air Canada picks discount airline executive as next chief operating officer

With discount airline plans on the horizon, Air Canada has hired a former AirTran Airways executive as chief operating officer.

Klaus Goersch becomes executive vice-president and chief operating officer, effective Monday.

“Klaus’s solid track record of excellence in airline operations, his proven leadership abilities along with his experience in the low cost/low fare environment will further strengthen our executive team,” said Calin Rovinescu, president and chief executive officer, in a news release.

Goersch, who is also a pilot, has more than 25 years of experience in the airline industry. He was mostly recently in charge of the merger of operations of AirTran, which flies out of Buffalo, with Southwest Airlines, which acquired the smaller airline in 2011.

He replaces Duncan Dee, who held the post of COO. Dee also had the responsibility of government relations, but that part of his job went to Derek Vanstone, who was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s deputy chief of staff.

Union leaders quickly pounced on that appointment as proof of a cozy relationship between Air Canada and the federal government.

Air Canada has been mired in labour troubles for the past year, and Labour Minister Lisa Raitt intervened on several occasions to block any strike or walkout by employees.

Union officials vehemently complained that Raitt was interfering with collective bargaining, and the airline was hit by a wildcat strike by baggage handlers and pilot sickout.

In the end, three contracts were settled through final contract arbitration including one in July with the airline’s 3,000 pilots. That deal now paves the way for the airline to start a low-cost carrier, which company officials have repeatedly said is critical to the airline’s success.

Low-cost carriers have been growing around the world, especially in Asia, and many legacy carriers have started their own discount airline or partnered with others.

Air Canada said its low-cost carrier, which can use up to 50 planes, will be owned 100 per cent by the airline but operated separately. It will gradually ramp up service to destinations in Europe, the United States and the Caribbean, targeting vacation travellers.

Joseph D’Cruz, a professor at the Rotman School of Management, said the operations job is critical.

“The operations side of many airlines is very complex, and to run a low-cost carrier is even more complex,” D’Cruz said. “Every little aspect of operations counts. You need people with deep experience.”

“(This appointment) signals perhaps that Air Canada is going to pay more attention to the low-cost side of its business,” he added.

thestar.com – Business