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WestJet mechanics strike ends, travellers in Sask. still experiencing disruptions

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Following a tumultuous 48 hours for those relying on air travel over the Canada Day weekend, WestJet is now steadily restoring flights across the country.

The two-day long strike by the Airplane Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) from June 28 to June 30 marks the latest turn in the labour dispute between WestJet and the union representing 670 aircraft maintenance engineers and other support staff.

The strike came as a surprise to the company, as the federal government had ordered the two parties into binding arbitration on June 27.

Just after 11 p.m. Sunday night, WestJet announced AMFA had ended its strike and was returning to the bargaining table.

At Regina’s International Airport, 80 per cent of WestJet flights scheduled for Monday remained delayed or cancelled.

According to President and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, over 40 flights were cancelled over the weekend due to the strike action – impacting hundreds of travellers.

“Right now, it is all about recovery and I can tell you there were a lot of frustrated passengers who didn’t get where they needed to go and WestJet has been trying to accommodate those folks this week, not just here but right across Canada,” he said.

“Hopefully those who were delayed are getting on flights to cities they desired in the first place. I’m just hopeful that this is behind us and we won’t see a repeat over the summer.”

In Saskatoon, over 60 per cent of arrivals and 70 per cent of departures were affected.

In a status of operations update released just after 12 p.m. Monday, WestJet thanked travellers for their resilience and assured customers it was making every effort to bring services back to full capacity as quickly as possible.

“We are grateful to be recovering our operation; however, we fully recognize the continued impact on our guests and sincerely appreciate their patience and understanding,” said Diederik Pen, president of WestJet Airlines.

“Across our airline, our teams are working around the clock to safely bring the 130 aircraft parked across Canada back to the skies, as efficiently as possible.”

The airline says that due to the strike action, 130 of its 180 aircraft fleet were grounded.

The out-of-commission aircraft are parked at 13 airports across the nation. Eight of those airports do not have crew bases — meaning pilots and other crew will need to be transported to the airports to retrieve the planes.

All parked aircraft require standard maintenance and safety checks before they are returned to service.

According to WestJet, a total of 1,078 flights were cancelled from June 27 to July 2 — the majority of those occurring on Sunday, June 30, with 432.

WestJet and AMFA have now reached a tentative agreement covering the next five years. That agreement will soon be voted on for ratification by union members.

“We believe this outcome would not have been possible without the strike, but we do regret the disruption and inconvenience it has caused the traveling public over the Canada Day holiday period,” the latest update from AMFA read. “The timing was coincidental as the negotiation process did not follow a predictable timeline.”

More information on disruptions to specific flights can be found here.

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