WestJet and Swoop begin flight cancellations ahead of possible pilots' strike

May 18 2023, 2:09 pm

WestJet and its low-cost airline Swoop have begun cancelling flights anticipating the looming pilots’ strike this Friday.

In a statement released Thursday morning, Canada’s second-largest airline said it’s preparing for labour action by WestJet and Swoop pilots by starting to “take down its network.”

WestJet says cancelling flights will help it avoid abandoning aircraft in remote locations without support. The company says this also allows for proactive communication with guests and crew to minimize the potential of being stranded.

This news comes as WestJet remains in a stalemate with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) — the union representing the airline’s pilots — regarding months-long negotiations over wages, scheduling, working conditions, and job security.

“We deeply regret the disruption this will have on the travel plans of our guests and the communities and businesses that rely on our critical air service,” said Alexis von Hoensbroech, chief executive officer of the WestJet Group, in a statement.

“We remain at a critical impasse with the union and have been left with no choice but to begin taking the painful steps of preparing for the reality of a work stoppage.”

WestJet is grounding most of its 737 and 787 fleets in a “measured, phased, and safe approach.” However, WestJet Encore, WestJet Link, and limited 737 flights will continue to operate during this time.

WestJet pilots’ strike notice

The ALPA issued a 72-hour strike notice on Monday evening, presenting possible disruptions to long weekend travel plans.

“After nine months of negotiating, management still fails to understand today’s labour market conditions, leading to a mass exodus of our pilots in search of better work opportunities, and more will follow if this agreement does not meet our pilots’ needs,” said Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the ALPA WestJet master executive council, in a statement.

It started the clock on a three-day countdown for contract negotiations before pilots could legally walk out.

The union representing WestJet pilots says it plans to begin the strike at 3 am ET on Friday, May 19.

What travellers should know

WestJet advises customers to check their flight status before heading to the airport this weekend.

It added that guests affected by possible flight delays or cancellations will be refunded or re-accommodated.

Canadians who booked through a travel agent or online booking agency are advised to contact them directly. Daily Hive also spoke with a travel agent about what people should expect during the pilot’s strike.

Passengers can find updates on flight status, travel changes, and more on WestJet’s Guest Updates page or Swoop’s information hub.

Isabelle DoctoIsabelle Docto

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