Thankfully, the recent WestJet strike action has been resolved – but not before it caused significant disruption in the lives of fellow Canadians. Hundreds of flights were cancelled on Thursday in anticipation of a strike, leaving many Canadians stranded and facing unexpected challenges. As someone who experienced these disruptions firsthand, I understand the frustration and concern it has caused. Like many others, I found myself scrambling to secure alternative flights and accommodations, incurring additional unforeseen expenses.
I can’t help but think about folks who may not be so lucky. Folks who were flying for important family events, or for work. Folks not fluent in English or uncomfortable with technology. Folks who can’t afford the extra cost incurred or had vacations they had saved all year for cut short or even cancelled.
The panic, the anxiety, and the stress they would be dealing with in the face of these circumstances with virtually no support from the airline is unacceptable.
When your flight is cancelled, the passenger bill of rights states that the airline must find you an alternate flight. However personal experience tells me that is not the case. WestJet did not book us on another carrier. We had to rebook ourselves and pay out of pocket. And pay for another night’s accommodation because of the new flight.
And now apparently, we must wait 18 months (according to the Federal Agency backlog) to try to be compensated for significant out of pocket expenses. How is any of this acceptable?
In times like these, it is natural to question the role of our federal government and the Minister of Transport in ensuring the safety and well-being of citizens. What is their role in all of this? Why does the Federal Government not have better polices in place to ensure that Canadian Citizens are not left stranded. Or enforce the policies we do have? Our Federal Government should have been monitoring the situation closely and have been ready to intervene to safeguard the interests of the travelling public.
I always believe that strike actions and collective bargaining rights are an important part of our democratic process. We can all understand that balancing the rights of workers with the impact on individuals and the economy is a complex challenge. Nonetheless, it is the job of our government and in particular the Minister of Transport to ensure that mechanisms are in place to mitigate the impact of such strikes on the traveling public.
It is my hope that lessons will be learned from this situation and that the Minister will enhance enforcement of existing policies and consider expansion of passenger rights legislation. This should include exploring mechanisms to assist affected individuals during labor disputes.
No Canadian citizen should be left stranded or significantly impacted by labour disruptions!
If you are one of the thousands of people affected by the WestJet “strike”, I encourage you to voice your concerns to your MP; advocate for stronger passenger rights; advocate for a stronger national support system for Canadian travellers. At a minimum, the Government of Canada should provide clear easily accessible information to assist travellers in navigating these situations.