WestJet has restored its full flight network capacity after managing to avoid a potential pilot strike.
In a statement, Alexis von Hoensbroech, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WestJet Group, which includes WestJet and Swoop, said: “Our network has fully recovered, great to see so many WestJet planes in the air right now!”
“After Friday’s partial network takedown due to potential (but prevented) labour action, the team did a tremendous job in restarting our schedule,” von Hoensbroech added.
The airline’s pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) union, were scheduled to strike on May 19, 2023, after negotiations between ALPA and WestJet stalled. However, on the same day, the two sides reached a tentative agreement, allowing the carrier to begin ramping up operations as quickly as possible.
“Huge kudos to all WestJetters and Swoopsters who stepped up, often voluntarily, to crew our flights!!” the CEO of WestJet added, further apologizing to all passengers whose flights were canceled due to the precautionary measures the carrier was forced to take on May 19, 2023.
ALPA initially issued a strike notice for a 72-hour labor action on May 15, 2023, with the union seeking a new labor contract with WestJet. At the time, Captain Bernard Lewall, the Chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC), said that after nine months of negotiations, WestJet’s “management still fails to understand today’s labour market conditions, leading to a mass exodus of our pilots in search of better work opportunities”. Lewall added that “more will follow if this agreement does not meet our pilots’ needs”.
Responding to the strike notice, the airline group began a lockout of its operations, stating that it was the only available option to manage flight disruptions and “proactively communicate changes to our schedule and provide advance notice of travel impacts to our guests”.
After the two sides reached a tentative agreement, von Hoensbroech noted that the new labor contract will provide “meaningful improvements to job security and scope, working conditions and wages”.