WestJet, Canada’s second-largest passenger airline, has begun canceling flights and temporarily halting flights across its itinerary to keep its busiest routes staffed ahead of a potential pilots strike. The pilots union issued a 72-hour strike notice to WestJet on Monday after almost a year of salary negotiations. If enough pilots walk out tomorrow, WestJet would have to shut down operations.
WestJet stated that it will be grounding most of its Boeing 737 and 787 fleet but didn’t specify which routes would be impacted. This decision will likely affect thousands of passengers over Canada’s Victoria Day holiday weekend. As of today, the Calgary-based carrier announced that 104 flights had been canceled. WestJet remains at the negotiating table but firmly places the blame on the pilots for the situation.
WestJet Group CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech said in a statement:
“We are extremely disheartened to find ourselves in a place where we have to activate our contingency plan and subsequent takedown of our network as a result of the strike notice served by ALPA and their inability to accept a reasonable offer. 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. 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.”
The notice issued by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), the union representing WestJet’s pilots, mentioned that the carrier is in the midst of an employee exodus due to substandard pay and working conditions. ALPA claims that a WestJet Group pilot leaves to fly for a competitor every 18 hours. There is a possibility that a deal can be reached before the 3:00 a.m. deadline in Calgary, but WestJet passengers should be aware of this situation.