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WestJet cancels more than 20 flights as engineers threaten to strike

The strike can take place as early as June 28.
Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association union members issue strike notice against WestJet.

WestJet cancelled more than 20 flights on Thursday in response to its aircraft maintenance engineers threatening to strike.

The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), the union representing aircraft maintenance engineers and technical operation employees at WestJet, issued a second 72-hour strike notice on June 25.

If the strike notice is not withdrawn, a strike can take place as early as June 28 at 4:30 a.m. PST.

The airline has cancelled about 25 flights between Thursday, June 27 and Friday, June 28, impacting around 3,300 travellers.

This decision allows the airline to park its planes safely, communicate early and keep WestJet's customers and crew from getting stranded, explained WestJet on its website.

Travellers impacted by flight delays or cancellations will be refunded or re-accommodated as applicable, said the airline.

The union issued its first strike notice last week, resulting in the cancellation of about 40 WestJet flights between June 18 and 20.

The notice was later withdrawn after a Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) decision declined WestJet's attempt to stop the strike, and the employer subsequently agreed to set bargaining dates.

After just one day of renewed negotiations, talks fell through again, and the union issued a second strike notice.

“As we quickly approach the July long weekend, it is especially devastating that the strike notice we have received from AMFA forces us to begin cancelling flights and parking aircraft, for the second time in just over a week," said Diederik Pen, president of WestJet Airlines and group chief operating officer.

"As we are forced to make this painful decision, every one of us at WestJet feels the immense weight of the impact this will have on each of our guests and the communities we serve, counting on us to fulfill their travel plans this weekend."

Pen added that WestJet is "committed to reaching an agreement" and is left with "no choice but to hold strong on a reasonable outcome" to ensure Canadians have affordable air travel.

"As we initiate flight cancellations across our network, we will continue to manage our operations to the highest degree of safety."

Both AMFA and WestJet have confirmed they remain available for negotiations.

"We have agreed to extend negotiations in Toronto through the end of this week and resume in Calgary next week if necessary," reads AMFA's statement.

Travellers who booked directly with WestJet will be informed about changes to existing travel through the email address provided at the time of booking, and those who booked through a travel agent or online booking agency should contact them directly.

Updates about flight status and travel changes will be provided on WestJet's Guest Updates page.

-with files from Vikki Hui

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