Skip to main content

WestJet pilots' strike notice threatens to ground hundreds of flights ahead of May long weekend

Travellers scheduled to fly with WestJet for the May long weekend may be out of luck.

The union representing the airline’s pilots has issued a 72-hour strike notice.

Now, Vancouver International Airport is trying to get ahead of any potential fallout.

“We will have extra staffing here because it is the May long weekend, so we're already expecting a very busy weekend. With this information from WestJet. It's best for passengers just to be as prepared as possible,” said Alyssa Smith, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Airport Authority.

WestJet says it’s preparing to operate on a reduced schedule, which may lead to flight changes and cancellations.

“I’ve been concerned about that this whole time I’ve been gone. I don't want that,” said Joanne, who was flying back home to Edmonton from YVR.

The Air Line Pilots Association says members plan to walk off the job early Friday, prompting the WestJet Group to respond with a lockout notice.

A strike would potentially ground hundreds of flights each day.

“Currently, we're showing four cancellations today, so flights are operating mostly as scheduled. We operate about 120 to 130 flights per day with WestJet,” said Smith.

The major sticking points in contract negotiations have been job protection, scheduling and pay.

“We need to narrow that gap. And really, that is what is driving our pilots away from WestJet to other airlines. Last year alone, we had 260 pilots leave the West, that group of companies, to other airlines—primarily both north and south of the border," said Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA master executive council.

WestJet declined an interview with CTV News Vancouver, issuing a statement instead.

“The decision to issue a lockout notice, in response to the actions taken by the union today, was not one that was made lightly, and we sincerely regret the inconvenience and uncertainty this continues to cause for our guests,” said Alexis von Hoensbroech, chief executive officer of WestJet Group.

The airline says impacted customers will be refunded or reaccommodated.

“It is WestJet that has to accommodate your travel plans and buy you a ticket on another airline. They cannot force you to rebook to different date. A deal is a deal, you have a contract with them,” said Gabor Lukacs, an airline passenger rights advocate.

Lukacs is advising travellers to wait and see if the strike even happens, and then leave the responsibility of rebooking to the airline. Top Stories

Tragedy in real time: The Armenian exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh

For the past five days, vehicles laden with refugees have poured into Armenia, fleeing from the crumbling enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in neighbouring Azerbaijan. In a special report for, journalist Neil Hauer recounts what it's like on the ground in Armenia.

Stay Connected