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An Air Canada jet takes off over the terminal at the Halifax airport. Flight attendants are poised to go on strike at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
An Air Canada jet takes off over the terminal at the Halifax airport. Flight attendants are poised to go on strike at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday. (Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

What should passengers do to prepare for a possible Air Canada strike? Add to ...

Wait and see.

With Air Canada giving away little of its contingency plans in the event of a strike, patience is the only option for worried passengers wondering if they’ll be able to fly Wednesday.

In a statement midday Tuesday, the airline said it was juggling planes to maximize carrying capacity. Some passengers on Air Canada Express flights, operated by Jazz, may be contacted with changes to their itinerary.

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“Temporary modifications are being made ... in order to redeploy the limited number of aircraft available to serve the greatest number of passengers on Air Canada’s highest demand domestic and transborder routes,” read the notice, posted on the airline’s website.

Customers who “booked directly through Air Canada” will be notified by email or text-message if their itinerary has been changed. They will be directed to the online booking service and can also request a full refund.

Air Canada has said that passengers travelling over the next six days can re-book without paying the usual change fee. This can be done on-line or by phoning Air Canada Reservations, where waiting times are expected to be longer than normal.

The airline has been negotiating with the flight attendant union, assisted by a federal mediator. The workers are in a position to walk out at 12:01 Wednesday morning.

Through its partners, Air Canada has pledged to honour commitments to some passengers if there is a strike. But the airline has not said what people with bookings should do in the event of a strike or what percentage of its passengers will be able to go ahead as scheduled.

“All I can say is talks are going to continue,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzgerald said in an email Tuesday morning. “We remain fully committed to reaching a negotiated agreement with CUPE prior to their strike deadline and our preference is to do so without government intervention through back-to-work legislation.

A June strike by customer service agents slowed operations but did not lead to cancelled flights. A lack of cabin crew is more serious. Although flight attendants' role may appear to revolve around the serving of food and drink, an Air Canada careers page puts safety considerations first in their lists of both functions and requirements for the position.

The government has signalled it will move promptly to introduce back-to-work legislation. The threat may provoke more fruitful negotiations. If not, even with a Conservative majority in Ottawa, there could be a time-lag getting the bill through the House of Commons.

Westjet has said it will put on additional flights if the strike goes ahead. Porter Airlines said it is continuing to operate a normal schedule.

Follow on Twitter: @moore_oliver

 

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