*Last updated May 11, 2018
WestJet pilots have voted in favour of a strike, possibly happening later in May 2018. Travel insurance does not cover the “possibility” of a strike. If you purchased our Concierge Club insurance, you may be covered for “Change of Mind” insurance which allows cancellation for any reason and a 75% refund up to 3 days prior to departure.
tripcentral.ca does have experience dealing with airline and supplier labour disruptions (strikes, lockouts, slow-downs) and will proactively manage your booking on a priority basis.
WestJet pilots have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike, and will be in legal position to do so on May 19, but they have stated they won’t do so before May 22, avoiding disruption of travel plans on the Victoria Day long weekend.
We will continue to update this section with statements and updates from WestJet, as they become available.
History of airline strikes
In September 1998, Air Canada pilots walked off the job for 13 days and created havoc for Canadian travellers. In the summer of 2000, another Air Canada strike was averted at the 11th hour. Since then, airline labour disputes have been pretty much contained to Europe, where we have far less travellers at one time than on a Canadian airline. In 2016, however, Air Transat pilots were in a work dispute, but this was resolved before pilots walked off the job.
What does tripcentral.ca do in these circumstances?
We start with an outreach program to contact all affected customers in priority order based on travel dates.
If a strike goes through, our travel agents will be ready to give options to cancel or change airlines, as soon as WestJet advises, and affected customers and travellers will be contacted.
In the worst case scenario that operations are disrupted, there is typically a window of cancellation (say, 7 days) which moves daily. tripcentral.ca amasses its crisis team which is staffed according to the size of the problem. In 1998, a core team worked nights and weekends along with our travel agents to rebook customers on other airlines and even other modes of transportation. The airline provided refunds within the window for rebooking future travel without penalty. You would then purchase a new ticket at market rates. This is where the crisis team at tripcentral.ca kicks in – early and aggressively to mitigate inconvenience and loss for our customers.
Our agents are supported by a specialized team at head office to manage communication and alternatives should they occur.
What should you do?
If you will be in-destination and returning on a WestJet flight sometime after the May 22 possible strike date, it is essential we have contact information from you: your cell number or email address you will be monitoring while away, so that your travel agent can keep you up-to-date.
An airline strike is an operational, reputational, and financial nightmare. Parties often use high stakes during negotiation to get the best position – right down to the wire. Unfortunately, this causes worry for travellers in advance. But, disruptive strikes and lockouts are not common. The best advice we can give you is to try not to worry because there is nothing to be done. You cannot cancel without penalties and insurance will not cover anything because of the threat of a labour action. Only change of mind or limited supplier waivers can be invoked to cancel in advance, and this will result in some financial loss for you, not to mention cancelling a trip that is very likely to still happen.
Special note: tripcentral.ca’s company President was stranded in Florida in 1991 after the demise of Eastern Airlines. He is particularly attuned to the emotional factors associated with the uncertainty our customers experience in these scenarios. In the end, other airlines pitched in (as required by US Department of Transport regulation) to fly stranded passengers home on a stand-by basis. The same would not apply for a strike, but nevertheless, the uncertainty of our customers during these times is a priority for all of us at tripcentral.ca.
We will do our very best to reduce the stress and negative outcomes of a strike, should they occur. We remain optimistic that this will be settled without any operational disruption to our customers.