Pilot strike could ground WestJet flights at Pearson Airport in Mississauga

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Published May 15, 2023 at 1:06 pm

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WestJet pilots who fly passenger jets into and out of Pearson Airport in Mississauga will be in a legal position to strike as of tomorrow (May 16) unless a deal with the airline is reached before then.

If WestJet’s 1,800 pilots do go on strike, the work stoppage would come just as Pearson and other airports across Canada, including Calgary, where WestJet is headquartered, and Vancouver, are preparing for the busy late spring and summer travel seasons.

The Victoria Day long weekend, which falls this coming weekend, is traditionally a busy air travel time across Canada.

Some 750 WestJet pilots protested at Pearson and other airports last week as talks between their union leaders at the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and WestJet management continued.

Among other things, the pilots are seeking better working conditions and higher wages they say would bring them more in line with their North American counterparts.

They voted in favour of a strike mandate in April.

The ALPA said as of Sunday (May 14) that talks between the two sides were set to continue in advance of Tuesday.

ALPA officials also said, according to travel magazine PAX, that poor working conditions are causing about 30 pilots a month to leave WestJet.

Airline officials countered, saying the number of pilot resignations has been exaggerated and that WestJet’s mainline pilots are among the best paid in Canada.

The ALPA, which represents WestJet pilots and those at WestJet subsidiary Swoop Airlines in addition to numerous other airlines around the world, said last week via social media that “…after seven months of negotiating, WestJet management still fails to recognize the value and expertise WestJet pilots bring to their company and passengers every day. It’s past time for WestJet to reach an industry-standard contract agreement with its pilots.”

WestJet said in a statement that it has contingency plans in place should the pilots walk off the job. Its goal would be to “minimize what could be significant impacts to guest travel.”

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which operates Pearson, says it’s well-prepared for the summer travel season at Pearson thanks to bolstered staffing and technological improvements following widespread delays and cancellations that frustrated and angered travellers last year, especially during July and August.

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