WestJet pilots deal grants 24% pay raise over four years

Negotiations between union, WestJet continue but now the clock is ticking

CALGARY — It’s déjà vu all over again for WestJet, as it faces down a possible pilots’ strike heading into the first long weekend of the busy summer travel season.

Last night WestJet pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), issued a 72-hour strike notice to WestJet management and the federal government.

Industry watchers might remember negotiations between the airline and the ALPA coming down to the wire just before Victoria Day weekend back in 2018 too. The union held off on job action on that go-round, and ultimately a deal was struck, averting a strike.

This time, in the wake of the 72-hour strike notice, the union says WestJet pilots plan to begin lawful job action as of 3 a.m. ET on May 19, which could include grounding all aircraft and effectively shutting down operations.

Negotiations between the airline and the union continue, however.


A statement from the ALPA says the union could have filed the notice over the weekend, “but in a bid to keep the airline operating, agreed to extend negotiations. This sign of good faith was to allow enough time to review additional proposals put forth by both parties. While progress was made on most non-cost items, both sides have been unable to reach an agreement that will serve the best interests of all parties involved.”

The airline and the union have been in negotiations for some nine months.

“Flight disruptions are never an ideal outcome, especially given the tremendous support our guests have shown us, and we want to continue being a major contributor to our company’s success by helping WestJet realize its growth strategy,” said Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC).

Legal added: “We are hopeful today’s strike notice filing will provide management with the incentive to recognize just how dire the situation is and reach an agreement with us. That’s why we will continue to make our negotiators available 24/7 during the remainder of the 72-hour strike notice period.”



The WestJet Group responded with a lockout notice, saying a work stoppage could occur as early as Friday at 3 a.m. MDT.

“The decision to issue a lockout notice, in response to the actions taken by the union today, was not one that was made lightly, and we sincerely regret the inconvenience and uncertainty this continues to cause for our guests,” WestJet Group CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech said in a statement.

“It is our responsibility to ensure the safety and complete control of our network at all times, to minimize the risk of stranding our guests, our crews and our aircraft. Our commitment and priority remains at the bargaining table, where we will continue to work around the clock to come to a reasonable agreement as soon as possible, in an effort to prevent labour action,” added von Hoensbroech.

The statement noted the lockout notice does not mean a work stoppage will occur, and that both parties remain at the bargaining table. The statement also noted that WestJet Group is taking all necessary actions to manage the impacts as much as possible, including:

  • Beginning preparations to operate a reduced schedule. “Unfortunately, this will be a significant reduction from WestJet and Swoop’s current networks.”
  • Proactively managing changes and cancellations, to ensure the ability to communicate with passengers in advance of changes
  • Providing flexible change and cancel options for those who wish to make alternate arrangements

WestJet’s statement notes that “throughout negotiations, the WestJet Group has brought forward a generous contract that if agreed to will make its first officers and captains the highest paid narrow-body pilots in Canada, with a significant advantage over the next best paying Canadian airline. Furthermore, the proposed contract makes generous advancements to address the concerns of WestJet and Swoop pilots surrounding job security and scope. Despite efforts to be reasonable and provide significant improvements to the current contract, the union maintains its expectation of closing in towards U.S.–like wages, despite living and working in Canada. This expectation is not reasonable and is impeding the WestJet Group’s ability to reach an agreement in advance of the upcoming long weekend.”

Added von Hoensbroech: “We truly value the work and contributions of our pilots. We believe with a commitment from both parties, an agreement is achievable and are committed to offering pilots a competitive collective agreement with meaningful improvements for the Canadian market, whilst remaining competitive at the same time.”



Just like in 2018, competing airlines have stepped into the fray, promising to add capacity if WestJet flight operations are impacted by a strike.

A statement issued May 15 by Flair Airlines reads: “Flair Airlines is preparing contingency plans in the event of a strike action by WestJet pilots. The airline is ready and willing to add flights to its schedule to help WestJet customers continue their travels. Flair Airlines has seen an increase in bookings on many routes with news reports of the potential strike.”

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