WestJet continues to deal with fallout from a three-day strike by its unionized airline mechanics that left aircraft grounded across the country and forced the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights.

The Calgary-based airline began to ramp up its operations as of midnight July 1, but the company continues to warn passengers further cancellations will be required “over the coming days.”

The strike, which began June 28 and concluded late in the evening June 30, grounded 130 of the airline’s 180 planes across the country, WestJet said in a July 1 release.

WestJet has canceled 1,051 flights since the strike began, derailing flights for tens of thousands of travelers. The company grounded 292 flights on Canada Day and is expecting to cancel an additional 27 flights on July 2.

The airline said it is attempting to resume normal scheduling and is transporting hundreds of crew members to the 13 airports where its grounded planes sit in an attempt to get the planes back in the air as quickly as possible.

“We are grateful to be recovering our operation; however, we fully recognize the continued impact on our guests and sincerely appreciate their patience and understanding,” WestJet Airlines president and Group Chief Operating Officer Diederik Pen said in a press release.

“Across our airline, our teams are working around the clock to safely bring the 130 aircraft parked across Canada back to the skies, as efficiently as possible.”

The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), the union that represents approximately 680 workers, said in a June 30 press release that it’s “grateful and relieved” to have a contract in place for the next five years.

All of the aircraft maintenance engineers who walked off the job are being asked to “return to work immediately so that we can provide the value of their labor that was the primary element in achieving this deal,” the union said.

Only the five largest airports where WestJet planes have been parked—Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg—have crew bases. That means the airline must transport pilots and flight attendants to the remaining eight airfields.

Scheduling Snafu

WestJet said it takes roughly 1,600 crew members to carry out daily duties for the airline, but the strike threw a wrench into operations, disrupting the schedule for “many operationally sensitive” employees.

Once scheduling is fixed and crews have been transported to all parked planes, the grounded aircraft will require standard maintenance and safety checks before returning to service, the company said.

The strike occurred despite the June 28 directive of federal Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) that the agency impose binding arbitration on the parties. Binding arbitration involves a hearing before a neutral arbitrator. The arbitrator considers submissions from both sides before making a legally binding decision. Despite the request, the board allowed the strike.

The minister said in a social media post he met with both sides on June 29 to urge them to work with the CIRB “to resolve their differences and get their first agreement done.”
“Collective bargaining is the responsibility of the parties. The responsibility of the government is to facilitate and mediate that bargaining,” Mr. O’Regan said in a July 1 social media post.
The tentative deal reached June 30 includes an immediate 15.5 percent wage increase, followed by an increase of 3.25 percent in 2025 and 2.5 percent each year for the final three years of the five-year contract, AMFA said. Better benefits and increased overtime rates were also included in the agreement.
“We believe this outcome would not have been possible without the strike, but we do regret the disruption and inconvenience it has caused the traveling public over the Canada Day holiday period,” the union said in its statement.

“The timing was coincidental as the negotiation process did not follow a predictable timeline. We are pleased the strike lasted only 48 hours and that service can now return to normal.”