In advance of the long weekend, WestJet Group has started to proactively cancel flights in anticipation of a possible strike. This comes after WestJet pilots issued a 72-hour strike notice on Monday, May 14, which was promptly followed by WestJet Group issuing a lockout notice.
While the union that represents WestJet pilots is still in negotiations with WestJet Group, further disruptions could take place as early as Friday, May 19 if a deal isn’t reached by then.
WestJet Group Begins to Cancel Flights
In the early hours of Thursday, May 18, WestJet Group posted a notice to its website stating that it has begun cancelling flights in anticipation of a WestJet and Swoop pilot strike. The notice states that the intention behind these cancellations is to not have aircraft stranded away from bases and to minimize the potential for passengers to be left stranded.
The notice also states that the two parties remain far apart in negotiations, which could indicate that there are more disruptions to come. Without an agreement, WestJet and Swoop pilots could begin job action in the early hours of Friday, May 19, which would have the effect of grounding WestJet and Swoop’s operations.
It’s worth noting that WestJet Encore, WestJet Link, and Sunwing flights aren’t affected by the situation. Passengers with upcoming travel on WestJet or Swoop flights should monitor their bookings closely, and be prepared for disruptions in the near future.
For the past nine months, the ALPA, the union that represents WestJet pilots, has been in negotiations with WestJet Group over a new contract. To date, the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement, which has lead to the possibility of upcoming major disruptions to WestJet and Swoop’s flight operations.
In April, pilots voted in favour of a strike mandate, and on Monday, May 15, issued a 72-hour strike notice to the airline. WestJet Group’s response was to issue a lockout notice, and preparations have begun in the event of a major disruption while ongoing negotiations take place.
Should the two sides remain divided and unable to reach an agreement, WestJet and Swoop’s operations will be significantly affected, and there will be a widespread disruption to the airlines’ current networks.
WestJet and Swoop pilots assert that they’re advocating for better job security, scheduling adjustments, better wages, and improved working conditions, amongst other issues.
WestJet Group has stated that it has offered a fair and competitive contract that appropriately addresses the pilots’ concerns.
The two parties have yet to secure an agreement, and negotiations are ongoing.
What To Do If Your Booking Is Affected
For anyone with an upcoming booking with WestJet or Swoop, be prepared for possible major disruptions to your travel plans if a strike takes place. Expect call centres to be slammed as many other passengers attempt to have their bookings amended.
Both airlines are giving passengers options to voluntarily change their upcoming flight plans, although it’s important to note that WestJet and Swoop have obligations under other passenger rights schemes, as we’ll discuss further below.
For passengers with a WestJet flight-only booking from May 15–21, 2023, the airline is offering a one-time $0 change or cancellation fee, which is valid for all fare types (including Basic).
This means that you can opt to change your flight to a different date or destination (a fare difference may apply), or you can cancel your booking for a full refund to the original form of payment.
If the booking was made through a travel agent or online travel agency, passengers will have to contact them directly for any amendments.
For passengers with a WestJet Vacations booking for travel between May 15–21, 2023, a one-time $0 fee waiver is being offered for changes or cancellations. If you decide to cancel your booking, the funds will be returned to your original form of payment; however, if you change your booking, any difference in package price is applicable.
For passengers with a Swoop booking with departure dates between May 19–21, 2023, a one-time change may be made for a $0 change fee and no difference in fare price. The new flight can be selected between May 19 and June 20, 2023, and changes can be made online if the booking was made with Swoop directly.
Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) consider strikes to be situations outside of the carrier’s control, and passengers aren’t due monetary compensation for delays or cancellations.
If your WestJet flight is disrupted due to a possible strike, WestJet’s obligations depend on the length of the delay and the itinerary.
As per the APPR, WestJet must rebook you on its next-available flight or on an airline with which it has a commercial agreement within 48 hours of the original departure time.
If unable to rebook you on a WestJet flight or a flight on an airline with which it has a commercial agreement within 48 hours, WestJet must book you on a flight operated by any airline. After 48 hours have passed, you must also be given the option for a full refund of all unused flight segments to the original form of payment within 30 days.
If your Swoop flight is disrupted due to a possible strike, Swoop’s obligations are different, since it is considered to be a small carrier.
As per the APPR, Swoop must rebook you on its next-available flight or on an airline with which it has a commercial agreement, within 48 hours of the original departure time.
After 48 hours have passed, you must be offered the choice of a full refund or wait to be rebooked. Notably, Swoop isn’t obligated to rebook you on an airline with which it doesn’t have a commercial agreement.
It’s worth noting that other airlines may have limited capacity to accommodate passengers, due to high volumes over the long weekend and passengers who have voluntarily chosen to rebook to avoid WestJet and Swoop.
For flights that have an international component, you may be covered by other passenger rights schemes, such as EC261 (commonly referred to as EU261) and the Montreal Convention.
Air Passenger Rights has published detailed information about passenger rights in the event of a strike, and is an excellent resource.
In anticipation of a WestJet and Swoop pilot strike, WestJet has begun to proactively cancel flights. If you have travel with WestJet or Swoop in the near future, keep a close eye on your booking and be prepared for disruptions to your travel plans.
Should the parties not reach an agreement, expect there to be widespread flight disruptions as early as Friday, May 19 at 3am EDT. Negotiations between the parties are ongoing.
Both airlines have provided temporary amendments to their change and cancellation policies, although passengers are still protected in some form by the Air Passenger Protection Regulations and other schemes should there be a strike.
This story originally appeared on princeoftravel