CALGARY — It came right down to the wire but the WestJet Group and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) have averted a strike.
The two organizations reached a tentative consensus on their second collective bargaining agreement in the very early hours of this morning.
The strike deadline was 3 a.m. EDT, and the updates from WestJet and the ALPA came in just after 1 a.m.
Both parties now await the ratification vote to be put forward to ALPA membership.
“The WestJet Group is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement that is industry-leading within Canada and recognizes the important contributions of our valued pilots by providing meaningful improvements to job security and scope, working conditions and wages,” said WestJet Group CEO, Alexis von Hoensbroech.
“We appreciate we were able to arrive at a deal, however, recognize the impact on our guests and we sincerely appreciate their patience during this time. We are pleased to now return our focus to providing friendly, reliable and affordable air service to Canadians for years to come.”
As reported yesterday, the WestJet Group had begun taking down the networks for both WestJet and Swoop, in anticipation of a possible strike. The company now says it is “ramping up its operations as quickly and efficiently as possible, however the full resumption of operations will take time. Guests remain encouraged to continue to check the status of their flights before heading to the airport.”
Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC), said: “After months of tough negotiations with management, we are pleased to announce a Agreement-In-Principle that goes a long way to recognizing the value and expertise we bring to our airline every day. This contract will also help solve many of WestJet’s pilot attraction and retention issues, benefiting everyone involved from our company to our passengers and fellow employees.”
Lewall added that the WestJet ALPA leaders believe the new contract delivers on the goals of better job security, enhanced compensation, and more flexible schedules.
“When I started at WestJet 18 years ago, it was seen as a career destination,” said Lewall. “For the past several years, we have unfortunately been nothing more than a training ground for pilots looking to leave for better opportunities. This contract will change that and make WestJet a career destination once again.”
Also reported yesterday, the Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) has merged with the ALPA, making Air Canada the ALPA’s 40th pilot group. The ALPA is the world’s largest airline union, with more than 73,000 members.
When WestJet began taking down its network, it cancelled more than 100 flights. Yesterday Flair Airlines announced it has added additional flights for sale on May 22 and May 23, and is reviewing plans to add flights for May 24. Flights will be added on a case-by-case basis over the coming days, said Flair. The newly-announced flights will operate between Toronto, Halifax, Kelowna, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary, and are in addition to those previously announced flights from May 19 to May 22, between Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.
Meanwhile Air Canada tweeted that it is operating its normal schedule, and offered up its URL for air travellers “affected by WestJet’s disruption and looking to book with us”, adding that seats are limited.