July 19, 2024

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The cancellation of WestJet flights affected tens of thousands of travelers

The cancellation of WestJet flights affected tens of thousands of travelers

TORONTO (AP) — An aircraft mechanics’ strike forced Canada’s second-largest airline, WestJet, to cancel hundreds of additional flights Sunday, upending the plans of nearly 110,000 passengers over the Canada Day long weekend and prompting the carrier to sue. The federal government takes action.

About 680 workers, whose daily inspections and repairs are essential to airline operations, went on strike Friday evening despite a directive for binding arbitration by the Labor Secretary.

“WestJet is in receipt of a binding arbitration order and is awaiting urgent clarification from the government that the strike and arbitration cannot exist simultaneously; this is something they have committed to addressing and we are awaiting it like all Canadians,” WestJet Airlines President Diederic Penn said in a statement Sunday.

Since Thursday, WestJet has canceled 829 flights scheduled to fly between then and Monday — the busiest travel weekend of the season.

The vast majority of Sunday’s flights were canceled as WestJet reduced its fleet from 180 planes to 32 active aircraft and topped the global list of cancellations among major airlines over the weekend.

Trevor Temple-Murray was one of thousands of customers who rushed to rebook after their flights were cancelled less than a day in advance.

“We just have to wait,” said Temple Murray, a Lethbridge, Alberta, resident who was waiting in the car with his wife and 2-year-old son in a parking lot at the Victoria, British Columbia, airport. They were trying to get a flight to Calgary.

Their flight was cancelled at 6:05 p.m., and they wouldn’t know until the evening whether the flight scheduled for 7 a.m. the next day would go ahead.

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“There are a lot of angry people out there,” Temple Murray said, pointing to the station.

Nearby, Marina Cebrian, a 10th-grader exchange student, said she was supposed to return home to Spain early Sunday but now won’t be home to her family until Tuesday after suffering three flight cancellations.

“It’s painful,” she said. “I was supposed to be home today, like seven hours ago, but I didn’t.”

Both WestJet and the Fraternal Order of Aircraft Mechanics accused the other side of refusing to negotiate in good faith.

The union’s goal remains to reach an agreement through bargaining rather than through an arbitrator – a path the union has opposed from the beginning.

The union says its wage demands will cost WestJet less than C$8 million (US$5.6 million) beyond what the company offered for the first year of the collective agreement — the first contract between the two sides. It acknowledged that the gains would exceed the compensation of its industry colleagues across Canada and more closely equal its U.S. counterparts.

WestJet says it has offered a 12.5% ​​pay increase in the first year of the contract, and a compounded 23.5% pay increase over the rest of the 5½-year term.