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'Do better': B.C. couple stranded in Rome by WestJet cancellations

Richmond, B.C. -

A strike by WestJet pilots has been averted, but the fallout is far from over.

Thousands of travellers are stranded or delayed due to pre-emptive flight cancellations, and many of them are experiencing turbulence with the airline's customer service.

Sixty WestJet flights to and from Vancouver International Airport were impacted Thursday and Friday due to the labour dispute.

It’s ruined many long weekend holiday plans, but Canadians overseas are suffering the worst of it now, stranded and struggling to figure out how to get home.

“Do better," said Nic Ho, a Langley resident now stranded in Rome.

"I don't even know how else to say. We're kind of speechless. Do better. We're probably not going to fly with WestJet again."

Ho and his girlfriend had their flight back to Vancouver cancelled early Friday morning.

They spent 12 hours trying to get through to customer service online, by phone and in person at the airport in Rome before they finally got rebooked.

“We were on the phone for about four hours. Didn't get anywhere, tried to call other airlines, but I guess they had a large amount of calls coming in because of the strike from WestJet,” explained Ho.

Experts have been critical of how the airline has handled the situation.

“The law is absolutely crystal clear that WestJet has an obligation to rebook passengers on flights with other airlines if it doesn’t have its own flight," said Gabor Lukacs, an air passenger rights advocate.

"It is black and white, in the law in the passenger regulations. It is stunning and appalling that WestJet would deny passengers the right which is spelled expressly in law.”

The airline says it’s pleased to have reached a deal with the union.

“Thank you for your patience and loyalty during this time," said WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech.

"This agreement is just one of many steps we are taking to re-establish WestJet as the friendly, reliable and affordable airline that you know and love."

Roughly 1,800 pilots from WestJet and its discount airline Swoop threatened to walk off the job Friday morning over issues surrounding pay, job security and scheduling.

The details of the new deal have not been released.

“No collective agreement is perfect, but it did go a long way to addressing all those concerns,” said Tim Perry, Canadian president of the Air Line Pilots Association.

Pilots will vote on the agreement in the coming days.

It could take several days for the ripple effect to end.

“I'd say we're back in full operation by Sunday," said John Gradek, a lecturer on aviation management at McGill University.

"Today, they are probably going to be canceling about 20 per cent of their flights. Tomorrow probably about 10 per cent.

WestJet travellers are urged to check their flight status before arriving at the airport to avoid frustration.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s St John Alexander Top Stories

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