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Passengers ‘in the dark’ as WestJet flight cancellations continue days after strike ends

It’s been two days since WestJet’s mechanics ended their strike, but passengers are still grappling with cancelled flights and frustration.

“We were starting to wonder, ‘Are these re-bookings even real?'” Laura Stewart told CBC News Tuesday after WestJet rebooked and re-cancelled several of her flights over the long weekend. 

“We were in the dark, really.”

WestJet had to park 72 per cent of its fleet after mechanics announced a surprise strike Saturday, which resulted in a slew of cancelled flights affecting at least 100,000 passengers. The strike ended Sunday, but the Calgary-based airline warned Monday that disruptions will continue for several days.

WestJet said it had cancelled 1,137 flights across Canada as a result of the strike as of Tuesday, including 295 on Monday and 75 on Tuesday. It expected eight flights to be cancelled Wednesday.

“WestJet has taken significant strides to resume normal operations,” the company wrote in a news release. “As of today, 125 of WestJet’s 180 fleet are now active across the airline’s network.

“Unfortunately, as July long weekend is a peak travel period across Canada, limited availability exists both within our network and through alternative carriers, making options for re-accommodation extremely challenging.” 

Meal vouchers not enough, says frustrated traveller

Stewart, 55, had been travelling with her husband from Australia to Hawaii and was getting ready to leave the Honolulu airport Friday when, she said, she started hearing media reports of the WestJet strike.

When the couple went to switch planes in Vancouver Saturday morning, their flight back home to Regina was cancelled.

Laura Stewart, right, and her husband, Grant Gilchrist, pose at the Queensland Botanical Garden in Brisbane on June 23. The couple had travelled from their home in Regina to Australia for a wedding. They experienced several flight cancellations on the way home because of the WestJet strike. (Grant Stewart)

WestJet rebooked them on another flight, which was also later cancelled, Stewart said, so they paid out of pocket for a hotel in Vancouver.

After another cancellation the next morning, they eventually flew to Edmonton with the promise of a connecting flight to Regina. But then that flight was cancelled, too, which meant paying for another hotel stay, this time in Edmonton.

Finally, after another delay, they made it back to Regina on Monday. Stewart says all they had to show for the days of travel pains are two $15 meal vouchers.

“We were very fortunate that we’re in a position where we could handle the extra costs and we could handle the delay.”

Which flights are cancelled Tuesday?

Meanwhile, other WestJet customers are still stranded, including Gary Tater, 56, and his girlfriend, who have been stuck in Las Vegas since their flight back to Edmonton was cancelled Sunday.

“We are very concerned about trying to get out of Vegas with the 4th of July holiday coming up. Hotel prices are going to go through the roof,” Tater told CBC News in an email.

Using WestJet’s flight status tool, as of Tuesday morning, CBC News counted at least 63 cancelled flights meant to depart out of Canadian airports that day. At 18, Calgary had the most cancellations, followed by 10 cancelled flights out of Toronto and six out of Vancouver.

Also in B.C., there were:

  • Three cancelled flights out of Victoria.
  • Four out of Abbotsford.
  • One out of Comox.
  • One out of  Nanaimo.
  • One in Prince George.
  • Two out of Kelowna.

On the Prairies, on top of the 18 cancellations out of Calgary, there were:

  • Five cancelled flights out of Edmonton.
  • One cancelled flight out of Fort McMurray, Alta.
  • One cancelled flight out of Grand Prairie, Alta. 
  • Three flights out of Regina were cancelled.
  • One out of Saskatoon was cancelled.
  • Three cancelled flights out of Winnipeg.

In Ontario and further East, there were also cancellations in:

  • One in Hamilton, Ont. (its only flight Tuesday).
  • One in London, Ont.
  • Two in Thunder Bay, Ont. 
  • One in Quebec City (its only flight Tuesday).
  • Two cancelled flights out of Halifax.
  • One cancelled flight out of Moncton, N.B.
WATCH | Travel disruptions continue: 

Travel disruptions continue after WestJet strike ends

A strike by WestJet mechanics has ended and staff are back to work, but travellers are still scrambling to find alternative arrangements as the airline works to get its operations back to normal.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you will be notified by email if the company has your email address on file, according to WestJet’s guest updates page.

You can also check your flight status on the company website, by flight number or by airport.

What are your options?

WestJet says if your flight is delayed or cancelled, it will make “every effort to get you to your final destination, including moving guests to other airlines where available.”

In a statement posted to its website on Friday, WestJet says there are “limited re-accommodation options available,” suggesting it would be difficult for some people to make alternate plans to get where they’re going. 

In its Tuesday update, WestJet wrote that, in compliance with the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, “in the event reaccommodation with WestJet or an alternative airline isn’t available within 48 hours of a guest’s scheduled departure, guests are entitled to request a refund to their original form of payment.”

On X Tuesday morning, the company wrote that “if online management is not possible for your booking, our Contact Centre is available 24/7 at 1-888-937-8538.”

But Tater, in Vegas, says trying to reach WestJet has proved nearly impossible. 

“We have spent more than 16 hours on hold with them since Sunday night and each time those calls have been cut off before we were able to speak to someone,” he wrote.

“We’re extremely frustrated.” 

WATCH | Stuck at the Vancouver airport: 

Confused travellers remain at Vancouver airport after WestJet cancellations

Even after a strike by WestJet mechanics was called off on Sunday night, CBC News spoke to a number of frustrated travellers at YVR International Airport on Monday afternoon.

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