WestJet Airlines Inc., Canada’s second-largest carrier, has begun parking most of its Boeing 737 and 787 jets as it prepares for a possible strike by pilots.
The move comes ahead of what is normally a busy holiday long weekend for travel in Canada. Although talks are continuing, the Calgary-based carrier has been unable to reach an agreement with pilots over pay. The strike deadline is set for 5 a.m. Toronto time on Friday.
“Any guest impact is too high of a cost in the wake of these negotiations and we sincerely apologize that valued guests were caught in the middle of an avoidable conflict,” Chief Executive Officer Alexis von Hoensbroech said Thursday in a statement.
Parking the jets will avoid abandoning them in remote locations and minimizes potential for stranding passengers and crew, the Onex Corp.-owned airline said.
WestJet Link and WestJet Encore, which use smaller aircraft for feeder flights, will continue to operate, as will “limited 737 flights”, the company said. The stoppage will also affect WestJet’s low-cost carrier, Swoop.
WestJet remains in a stalemate with the Air Line Pilots Association over “unreasonable wage expectations that if realized would permanently damage the financial viability of the group’s future,” it said. More than 1800 pilots are asking for salaries closer to those of their American peers. In February, Delta Air Lines Inc. approved 34% pay raises as part of a new four-year contract.
“We remain at the bargaining table, unequivocally committed to achieving a deal as soon as possible, but are equally ready to weather labor action for as long as it takes to arrive at a reasonable outcome,” von Hoensbroech said.
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