Pax Global Media
This story was updated on Tuesday, May 16 at 11:26 a.m. EST
Flair Airlines is standing by in case WestJet’s pilots go on strike this Friday (May 19).
In a statement to media on Monday (May 15), the low-cost carrier said it is “preparing contingency plans” in the event of a strike, which will happen at the end of the week if talks between the WestJet Group and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) fall apart.
“The airline is ready and willing to add flights to its schedule to help WestJet customers continue their travels,” Flair said in a statement. “Flair Airlines has seen an increase in bookings on many routes with news reports of the potential strike.”
READ MORE: WestJet & Swoop pilots could strike Friday. Now what?
Last week, the ALPA, which represents some 1,600 flight crew at WestJet and subsidiary Swoop, warned that pilots were allowed to file a 72-hour strike notice on Saturday (May 13), and that a legal walkout could come as soon as Tuesday (May 16).
But no such strike or lock-out notice was issued over the weekend as negotiations continued on into Sunday.
Then, on Monday night (May 15), the ALPA issued a 72-hour strike notice to WestJet management and the government and the WestJet Group issued a lockout notice shortly after.
WestJet’s pilots are seeking better job protections, benefits and wages that they say will bring them in line with their North American counterparts.
Pilots representing both WestJet and discount carrier Swoop voted in favour of a strike mandate in April.
Last week, the pilots staged an informational picket at airports in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto to raise awareness of their demands.
"We hear them, loud and clear"
WestJet Group’s Chief Executive Officer Alexis von Hoensbroech on Friday (May 12) called WestJet’s pilots “instrumental in our organization and passionate about their future with our airline.”
“We see them and we hear them, loud and clear,” the CEO wrote in an update posted to WestJet’s website.
The CEO noted that WestJet is “serious about getting a deal.”
READ MORE: WestJet pilots to picket at three major airports
“Despite our ongoing recovery from the significant financial strain from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have brought forward a contract that is both reasonable and addresses the top asks of our valued pilots namely job security and scope, working conditions and meaningful wage improvements,” von Hoensbroech wrote.
He noted that the threat of a labour disruption is “creating immense stress and uncertainty for our guests and our people.”
“We are focused on a reasonable and timely resolution. We want this on behalf of our guests who are relying on us to come to an agreement, so they can be confident in the travel plans they have put their hard-earned money towards. And, we want this on behalf of the 15,000 employees of the WestJet Group, who also hang in the balance,” he wrote.
“We are committed to getting a deal and to avoiding impacts on our guests in the coming days.”
von Hoensbroech added that “we are equally ready to hold our ground on what is reasonable and to take actions to bring this to a resolution to give the Canadian travelling public, and our people, the certainty they deserve.”
The negotiations pertain to WestJet and Swoop pilots exclusively – WestJet confirmed with PAX on Monday that there will be no impact on Sunwing’s operations if a strike is called.
PAX asked for clarification given that the WestJet Group recently completed its acquisition of Sunwing
In a press release issued in April, the ALPA said its goal is “to avoid a strike.” However, the union noted that its members are still prepared “for any outcome.”
READ MORE: WestJet strike: pilot talks continue; airline “ready to hold our ground,” says CEO
“We want to continue being a major contributor to WestJet’s success and help the company recognize its growth strategy, but if management leaves us no other option, we will be ready to do what it takes to fight for our careers and the future of the airline," stated Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC), at the time.
Click here for more information of WestJet's plans for accommodating impacted passengers should a strike occur.
Under Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), airlines that cannot operate a scheduled flight must offer to book impacted passengers on a flight with another airline within 48 hours of the departure time.
After that point, passengers are entitled to a refund but may also accept a voucher with the airline if one is offered.
Some insurance plans might also help travellers recoup some costs of a cancelled trip.
Visit westjetpilots.com for ongoing updates.
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