WestJet Group braces for pilot strike

Canada’s WestJet Group, which includes WestJet and Swoop, has begun canceling flights and parking aircraft in anticipation of a pilot strike that could begin as soon as early Friday.

The company said that it is parking the majority of its Boeing 737s and Boeing 787s. WestJet had canceled 31% of its Thursday schedule by 2:30 p.m. Eastern time, according to FlightAware. 

“This action ensures the airline can avoid abandoning aircraft in remote locations without support and enables the proactive communication with guests and crew to minimize the potential for being stranded,” WestJet said. 

On May 15, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing WestJet Group pilots, filed a 72-hour strike notice to WestJet management and the Canadian federal government. The union said at the time that at 3 a.m. Eastern on Friday, “WestJet pilots plan to begin lawful job action, which could include grounding all aircraft and effectively shutting down operations.”

WestJet said Thursday that it continues to be at an impasse with the pilots.

“We remain at the bargaining table, unequivocally committed to achieving a deal as soon as possible, but are equally ready to weather labor action for as long as it takes to arrive at a reasonable outcome,” WestJet Group CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech said. 

ALPA said that negotiations with WestJet management have been ongoing for nine months. The union said it is pushing for better job security, industry-standard pay and more flexible schedules. 

“Flight disruptions are never an ideal outcome, especially given the tremendous support our guests have shown us, and we want to continue being a major contributor to our company’s success by helping WestJet realize its growth strategy,” said Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council. “However, WestJet pilots will withdraw our services to secure a contract that will fix many of the airline’s labor problems and make it a career destination for pilots once again.”

WestJet Group said that in the case of a strike, operations of regional subsidiaries WestJet Encore and WestJet Link would continue. Pilots for WestJet Link aren’t represented by ALPA, though WestJet Encore pilots are. 

Flyers on WestJet and Swoop should check their flight status prior to leaving for the airport. Flyers can also visit WestJet’s Guest Updates page or Swoop’s information hub for more information regarding flight status and travel changes.

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