WestJet Airlines Ltd. pilots voted 91 per cent in favour of a strike, but said Thursday they will hold off any job action until after the Victoria Day holiday weekend.
The deadline for a strike or a lockout by WestJet management had been May 19 and the threat of a walkout has caused deferral of bookings or shifts by travellers to other airlines, WestJet said earlier this week.
The airline said the deferrals would cause its revenue per available seat mile to be flat to down 2 per cent in the second quarter, instead of its hoped-for range of flat to up 2 per cent.
The strike vote and the turnout at an information picket earlier this week at WestJet’s annual meeting in Calgary should persuade management to bring serious proposals to the bargaining table, Rob McFadyen, chairman of the master executive council of WestJet’s Air Line Pilots Association unit.
The unit represents about 1,500 WestJet pilots.
“The goal is – and always has been – to secure a fair collective agreement that brings stability to the airline and not to strike,” Mr. McFadyen said in a statement.
Pilots are angry in part about the creation of Swoop, WestJet’s ultralow-cost carrier, and how pilots are being hired for that airline, which is scheduled to begin operations in June. The union maintains that WestJet pilots should be flying Swoop routes, not pilots hired from outside the company.
WestJet chief executive Ed Sims said the airline’s customers will appreciate that their travel will be unaffected during the long weekend.
“We remain at the negotiation table to drive a sustainable agreement, in the best interest of our pilots, 13,000 WestJetters and the 70,000 guests who fly with us daily,” Mr. Sims said in a statement.
He said earlier this week that the airline is developing contingency plans in the event of a full strike, rotating walkouts or work-to-rule actions.
The airline will try to operate if there is a full strike, he said.
In response to a possible strike at its competitor, Air Canada said Thursday it has added capacity on flights between Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and elsewhere as well as Calgary-Montreal flights and flights between Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.