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WestJet Pilots, Company Reach Agreement After Canceling Dozens of Flights

A WestJet Boeing 787 enters the runway at Paine Field in Washington. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

Canada’s WestJet and Swoop airlines cancelled over 200 flights in response to an industrial dispute with 1800 pilots. CBC News reports that 92 flights due to operate on Thursday were cancelled in addition to strategic cancellations already made by the airline ahead of the long holiday weekend.

“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 Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and their inability to accept a reasonable offer,” said Alexis von Hoensbroech, Chief Executive Officer of the WestJet Group, said in a statement. “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,”

According to CBC News,  the Canadian federal labour minister, the government’s head mediator, WestJet’s CEO and the pilots’ union leaders have continued to hold talks in Toronto. In a press release on Thursday Hoensbroech added: “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.”

ALPA say pay, job security and scheduling are at the core of the negotiations that led to the issuing of a strike notice on Monday. In response, the WestJet group issued a lockout notice to ALPA and indicated steps would be taken to manage the impact of any strike action. This included strategic cancellations around the network, communicating with affected passengers and implementing flexible policies allowing passengers to reschedule flights.

Union and Company Reach Agreement

Overnight on Thursday, WestJet and its pilots reached an Agreement-in-Principle (AIP), according to CBC News, therefore averting a strike action. The pilot group will now vote to set the agreement into motion.

A spokesperson for WestJet told CBC News that it is restarting operations “as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, the full resumption of operations will take time.”

The May holiday weekend comes as some university and high school students conclude examinations and begin summer vacation. WestJet had been scheduled to operate close to 4,000 flights in the coming week though reportedly ‘online bookings for flights on major routes such as Calgary-Vancouver and Toronto-Calgary are unavailable to book until Tuesday (23 May).’

John Flett

Author

  • John Flett

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John has held the positions of course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and has been a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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