The clock is ticking on an impending pilot strike at WestJet and its Swoop subsidiary, threatening the long weekend travel plans of thousands of passengers.
The Air Line Pilots Association served the airline a strike notice after talks between the company and the union representing some 1,800 pilots hit an impasse.
WestJet preemptively cancelled more than 100 flights on Thursday ahead of the looming strike deadline of 5 a.m. ET on Friday.
The airline said it will continue to operate its regional services, including its fleet of 47 planes at WestJet Encore and WestJet Link. Regional pilots are not involved in the current bargaining.
But WestJet flights on major routes such as Calgary-Vancouver and Toronto-Calgary could be grounded if the stalemate between the union and the company isn't resolved in the coming hours.
Here are five things to know about the WestJet and Swoop pilot strike:
How do I know if my flight is affected?
The strike is expected to impact WestJet and Swoop flights early Friday morning.
WestJet says passengers with a delayed or cancelled flight can expect to receive an email from the airline — provided their contact information is on file.
Passengers can update their contact information or make changes to their trip on WestJet's website using a reservation code and the last name on the booking, the company said.
They can also call the WestJet contact centre at 1-888-937-8538 to make changes to their itinerary, though wait times could be lengthy.
For WestJet Vacation bookings , the company says changes can also be made online or by calling 1-877-737-7001.
The airline says customers who cancel their vacation can expected to receive a refund to the original form of payment within 30 days. Sunwing flights are not affected.
Can I get a refund or make changes to my flight?
WestJet is offering refunds to passengers who cancel flights scheduled until May 21, and free changes to bookings within the same period.
In the event of a delay or cancellation, customers will be "refunded or re-accommodated, as applicable," the airline said.
WestJet says any change or cancellation request must be made more than two hours prior to departure.
The company says any portion of travel paid with WestJet dollars will be returned to the account.
What are my rights?
Regulations entitle passengers to a rebooking within 48 hours of a cancellation or a delay longer than three hours, according to the Canadian Transportation Agency.
If the airline can't meet those obligations, the passenger can opt for a refund or alternate travel arrangements, free of charge, on "any airline travelling on a reasonable route from the same airport."
It could also be from a nearby airport, and the carrier must "transport you there," the agency website states.
Additional compensation for out-of-pocket costs like meals and hotels may be also be owed, according to the Air Passenger Rights advocacy group.
What about Swoop flights?
Swoop passengers can expect similar notifications and allowances for rebooking and cancellations as WestJet passengers.
The low-cost carrier says flexible changes can be made on flights between May 19 and 21.
Swoop says travellers with eligible flights can make a one-time change to their flight for free and no difference in fare price. In the case of WestJet, a difference in fare may apply, the company said.
The airline recommends travellers check travel advisories and the status of their flight before heading to the airport.
Can I make a new booking?
New reservations may be temporarily limited to minimize future disruptions, WestJet said.
Passengers are now unable to make online bookings for WestJet flights on major routes such as Calgary-Vancouver and Toronto-Calgary until Tuesday.
Bookings on Swoop's website also seem limited until Tuesday.
Flair Airlines said it was "creating contingency plans to service more destinations with flight frequencies should the WestJet pilots’ strike continue for an extended period."
Air Canada issued a statement saying it was operating its normal schedule.
The airline said it would make its "best efforts" to accommodate WestJet customers, but that "seats are limited."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2023.
The Canadian Press