After months of ongoing negotiations between the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union that represents WestJet pilots, and WestJet Group, a work stoppage could take place in advance of the upcoming long weekend. As of late Monday, May 14, WestJet pilots have issued a 72-hour strike notice, and in turn, WestJet Group has issued a lockout notice.
While there’s still time for the two groups to reach a deal, WestJet and Swoop’s operations could be significantly affected as of 3am EDT on Friday, May 19 if any job action takes place.
WestJet Pilots Issue 72-Hour Strike Notice
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 could be significantly affected, and there could be a widespread disruption to the airlines’ current networks.
One possible outcome is that a work stoppage could occur as of Friday, May 19 at 3am EDT, right before a busy long weekend.
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.
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.
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, within 48 hours of the original departure time, WestJet must rebook you on its next-available flight or on an airline with which it has a commercial agreement.
Once 48 hours have passed from the original departure time, WestJet must either book you on a flight operated by any airline or give you 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.
Air Passenger Rights has published detailed information about passenger rights the event of a strike, and is an excellent resource.
WestJet and Swoop’s pilots have issued a 72-hour strike notice, and in return, WestJet Group has issued a lockout notice, which could result in widespread flight disruptions as early as Friday, May 19 at 3am EDT. Negotiations between the parties are ongoing.
Should the parties not reach an agreement, there could be a significant impact to WestJet and Swoop flights. 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.
If you have any upcoming travel planned on WestJet or Swoop, be sure to keep a close eye on your bookings in the next few days.