Travelers watch as WestJet cancels flights with no end in sight to mechanics’ strike

Travelers watch as WestJet cancels flights with no end in sight to mechanics’ strike
Travelers watch as WestJet cancels flights with no end in sight to mechanics’ strike

By the Canadian Press on June 29, 2024.

Travelers wait for flights at Calgary International Airport as WestJet technicians strike in Calgary, Saturday, June 29, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY – Travelers flying on WestJet continue to watch as the airline continues to cancel more flights due to a sudden mechanics union strike.

The Calgary-based airline says it has now cancelled 407 flights over the Canada Day long weekend in an effort to “maintain stability.”

Saturday saw the most flights canceled, with 282 WestJet flights being called off.

“Every flight cancellation we have to issue represents hundreds of guests affected by this union’s continued reckless actions,” Diederik Pen, president of WestJet Airlines, said in a statement issued late Saturday evening.

The flight cancellations come after members of the Airplane Mechanics Fraternal Association left their jobs Friday afternoon, saying WestJet’s unwillingness to negotiate with the union made the strike inevitable.

The action comes after union members rejected a deal from WestJet earlier this month and after two weeks of tense negotiations between the two parties.

Following this, the federal government intervened and ordered WestJet and the union to enter binding arbitration.

Friday’s strike came as a surprise to many WestJet travelers, who are wondering if they will be stranded far from home.

“Major delays, dead phone line. “Unscheduled maintenance”, this is not good. I’m in the YYC Lounge. Can I go home?” said Luke Antrim, who lives in Nanaimo, on X.

In an update to its membership, AMFA leadership posted a letter from the Canada Industrial Relations Board regarding its decision, which stated that the ministerial referral “does not have the effect of suspending the right to strike or lockout.”

That response prompted WestJet to say it was “extremely outraged by these actions and will hold AMFA 100 percent responsible for any unnecessary stress and expense caused as a result.”

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan, who said the Canada Industrial Relations Board’s order was “clearly inconsistent” with the direction he had given, weighed in again Saturday, urging both sides to work with the board to reach a deal.

“There is a lot at stake here. Canadians need to solve this,” he said on X.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2024.

– with files from Christopher Reynolds in Montreal