Achieving Peak Performance
New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Cary L. Cooper and Ronald J. Burke
Chapter 15: WestJet Airlines Ltd: A Case Study of a Successful Business that Highlights HRM and Strategy
15. WestJet Airlines Ltd.: a case study of a successful business that highlights HRM and strategy Gerard H. Seijts It’s a tough business trying to run a profitable airline. A recent 2010 Bloomberg Businessweek article concluded (based on data from the Air Transport Association, a Washington trade group), the US airline industry, over the last decade, has amassed no less than $60 billion in red ink and shed 160 000 jobs (Barrett, 2010). Many airlines have come and gone. For example, since 2000 alone, 37 airlines have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors. The situation in Canada is no less dramatic. However, while some Canadian airlines have been struggling (e.g., Air Canada) and failing (e.g., JetsGo, SkyService Airlines, Canada3000, Royal Airlines and Zoom Airlines), one airline in particular has flourished – WestJet Airlines Ltd. Observers credit the success of WestJet to two key success factors: the low cost structure and its relentless focus on customer service. More importantly, the airline’s organizational culture helps to drive down costs (e.g., individuals won’t make photocopies single-sided) and execute on achieving a great customer experience (e.g., accompanying a person who has a fear of flying). The objective of this chapter is four-fold. First, to provide a short overview of WestJet and its ongoing successes. Within this is what makes the company so successful. Second, to describe WestJet’s culture and the ways the culture manifests itself. Third, to explain how the organization’s leadership and human resource approaches contribute to building and sustaining the culture....
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