WestJet cancels flights ahead of long weekend after 2nd strike notice

Ahead of a busy travel weekend, WestJet has started cancelling flights as unionized mechanics at the airline prepare to go on strike once again.Approximately 25 flights have been cancelled for Thursday and Friday, impacting roughly 3,300 customers, WestJet said in a news release.

This comes after the Calgary-based airline said it had received a second strike notice in over a week from the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, which represents some 670 aircraft maintenance engineers and other skilled-trade positions at the carrier.

The union workers are planning to go on strike as early as Friday 7:30 p.m. ET.

The preemptive flight cancellations will ensure that aircrafts can be safely parked in a controlled manner, and prevent the stranding of travellers and crew, WestJet said.

The timing of the potential job action could disrupt the travel plans of more than 250,000 customers who are scheduled to travel over the July long weekend, the airline said.

“As we quickly approach the July long weekend, it is especially devastating that the strike notice we have received from AMFA forces us to begin cancelling flights and parking aircraft, for the second time in just over a week,” said Diederik Pen, president of WestJet Airlines and group chief operating officer.

“As we are forced to make this painful decision, every one of us at WestJet feels the immense weight of the impact this will have on each of our guests and the communities we serve, counting on us to fulfil their travel plans this weekend,” he added.

The AMFA is accusing WestJet of suing it without notifying its negotiators, who are working with the airline on a new collective bargaining deal.

The union said WestJet’s statement about a strike putting it and travellers in peril is “inflammatory” and is urging WestJet to spend more negotiating with union representatives.

Union members overwhelmingly voted to reject a tentative deal earlier this month and have opposed WestJet’s request for arbitration.Speaking to reporters in Calgary on Wednesday, WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech said that the airline’s maintenance engineers are already “among the best paid in Canada,” earning $109,000 annually on average.

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