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WestJet pilots issue strike notice as contract negotiations continue

Justin Tallis
AFP via Getty Images

The pilots and their employer WestJet have been negotiating a new contract for nine months. WestJet has been losing pilots to other airlines, especially those in the US, who are offering more money.

The chair of the WestJet Air Line Pilots Association, Captain Bernard Lewall, says the airline still does not understand the current labour market and that, he says, has led to a mass exodus of pilots looking for better work opportunities.

Lewall says more pilots will follow unless there is an agreement to meet their needs. Delta Airlines recently gave their pilots a raise of more than 30 percent over four years. Lewall says that without economic and job security improvements, WestJet planes could end up parking its planes. With the summer holiday travel season about to begin, a strike could disrupt travel plans.

Passenger rights advocate, Gabor Lukacs says rules dictate that airlines must offer to book passengers of cancelled flights on a flight with another airline within at least 48 hours of their departure time, but there are exceptions.

"If WestJet pilots go on strike and WestJet will have to rebook its passengers on with other competitor airlines, regardless of the passenger's destination. The difference happens as to whether passengers are owed more than just rebooking.

If the passenger is travelling entirely within Canada, then, unfortunately under Canada's substandard protection for passengers, they are owed nothing more."

WestJet has issued a lockout notice in case pilots do go on strike. But sides are still talking, but if there is no deal within the next couple of days, pilots could be on the picket lines by Friday morning.