Winnipeg travellers brace for potential WestJet pilot strike

Manitoba travellers’ plans are up in the air as they await news of a possible pilot strike.

Jennifer Moyer travelled Tuesday to Edmonton from Winnipeg Richardson International Airport. She has another WestJet flight booked for Monday, but doesn’t know if she’ll be on it.

WestJet pilots issued a 72-hour strike notice Monday night, saying planes could be grounded starting at 2 a.m. Winnipeg time Friday.

“I think that’s there in the back of my mind,” Moyer said. “We’ve been looking at updates ever since it was first announced that there was the potential for the strike and with the deadline.”

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents WestJet pilots, said in its notice its main concerns are centered on abrupt scheduling issues, such as flights being suddenly cancelled or little notice for flights.

Michel Rosset, the communications manager with the Winnipeg Airports Authority, is preparing for the possibility of a strike.

“The big thing is, if you do have to change your itinerary, you don’t come to the airport and instead reach out to the airline, as they’d be best able to assist you.”

If the strike goes through. Moyer hopes she’ll be able to get through to a WestJet phone representative.

“Everybody that’s got a WestJet flight booked is going to be in the same situation,” Moyer said.

Lynn Benoit was heading home to Kelowna, B.C. Tuesday after visiting for Mother’s Day. She says she’s glad last week’s strike conversations were held off.

“They had talked about Friday, which would have put the 72 hours to today, which is the day that we’re flying home, so we were quite grateful when it got postponed.”

Don Lopatka is hoping the strike doesn’t happen.

“Potential disruption is concerning obviously,” Lopatka said. “I do have some future business travel, so we’re hoping there’s resolve to this quicker rather than later.”

Gabor Lukacs, president of Air Passenger Rights, is urging people not to cancel their WestJet flights.

“When you chose onward transportation, WestJet is required to rebook you on competitor airlines if they are unable to rebook you on their own network in 48 hours,” Lukacs said.

He is advising people to get on their flights, even if a layover could be impacted by the strike.

Lukacs says the strike pressures will highlight the state of passengers rights in Canada. He hopes pending federal legislation will help improve it.

Moyer is concerned she might not get home Monday, but says she understands why.

“They have to do what they have to do, and I think everybody has to be appreciative that this is their livelihood,” Moyer said. “And are we going to be inconvenienced? Yes.”

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