You are currently viewing Strike at WestJet and flight cancelations: Introduction to your rights

We’ve created plenty of content about for you about managing everything called IRROPS (irregular operations, i.e., all flight disruptions), but we definitely need to do a better job of consolidating and clarifying it to help you navigate it. It’s a topic that is complex for many people. In the meantime, here’s a useful overview of what to do about the WestJet strike/lockout.

It seemed to be avoided, but it’s back on. WestJet, Canada’s 2nd-largest airline, is canceling flights in preparation for a strike that is part of a labor dispute with their maintenance engineers and tech ops employees.

That particular kind of disruption is pretty rare here (we’re not in Europe, after all), and most travelers don’t know their rights at all.

Here is an introduction to the impacts while waiting for a more detailed guide that we are going to prepare for you on this whole subject.

 

Basics of your rights during the WestJet strike

Here’s the infographic that summarizes the situation.

Infographic by Flytrippers on passengers' rights in the event of flight interruption
See the full-size infographic

 

There are 4 important things to know first and foremost about all flight disruptions:

  • Help yourself by always paying for your flight with a good credit card
    • At least it’ll get you free hotel and meals
    • During almost any disruption (such as strikes)
  • Take responsibility by knowing your rights and then acting quickly
    • Monitor your flight status and prepare a Plan B
    • Communicate with the airline after having done your homework
  • Understand that airlines will often deny you your rights
    • The weak federal government lets them get away with it
    • It’s often hard to get everything you should get
    • Especially if you haven’t booked with them directly
  • Record all your interactions with airlines
    • Good documentation of the situation will help you enforce your rights

I’ll give you more details on each aspect below.

Now, as far as your rights are concerned, you have basic rights that apply regardless of destination if your flight is canceled in this strike situation.

You always get to choose 2 options for all flights:

  • Completion of your itinerary for free on other airlines
  • Full refund in cash and return to point of departure

Then, on top of that, you have additional rights depending on your specific route:

  • Domestic flights within Canada
  • International flights
  • Flights from the EU and the UK

 

Your rights for all flights

So I’ll start with what is simple and what always applies, so the minimum, for all flights canceled by the airline because of this strike.

WestJet is obligated to give you the choice between these 2 options:

  • Complete your trip on another airline
    • They have to pay a ticket no matter what the price is
    • Even on airlines they do not partner with
    • If they can’t rebook you after 48 hours
    • It can be from your original airport (if there is availability)
    • It can be from other nearby airports
      • They also have to pay for your transportation to this other airport
  • Get a full refund and return to your starting point
    • They have to refund you in full in cash (no travel credit/voucher)
    • You can get your money back even if you’ve already left 
      • If their cancelation means that your trip is no longer valid
      • For example, if the alternative return flight doesn’t suit you
      • They have to pay you a ticket back to your starting point

You should politely let airline employees know that your rights are very explicitly detailed in Article 18 of Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations.

That’s wonderful; getting another flight on any airline. So simple. Amazing indeed… if it works. Unfortunately, airlines will often simply refuse to pay for the ticket on another airline, even though you’re definitely entitled to it. The federal government is entirely complicit in letting this happen.

If you didn’t book with the airline directly (you always should), they’ll use that excuse even if your rights don’t depend on where/how you booked, and it’s the airline’s responsibility to give you those 2 choices. But even if you did book with them, they often will just say no, because there are no consequences for them.

This means you have to book yourself another ticket that is extremely expensive and then ask for a refund, or possibly even sue them in small claims court to get your money back. The airlines are well aware that the vast majority of people aren’t going to want to take that risk — even if the regulations are clear — and will just opt for a refund. It’s much cheaper for the airlines that way!

 

Your additional rights for domestic flights in Canada

Your rights for all flights (listed above) are all you are owed if your flight is within Canada, since our passenger protection regulations protect the airlines more than the passengers, as I’ll explain below if you’re interested.

You should be entitled to monetary compensation, but the Canadian government lets the airlines get away with pretending that a labor dispute is “outside their control”.

These are their own employees, I honestly don’t know how it can be more within their control. In European regulations, labor disputes are explicitly considered to be within the airlines’ control (logically). But not in Canada.

 

Your additional rights for international flights

In addition to your rights for all flights (listed above), if your flight is international you are better protected than for a domestic flight in Canada.

It’s thanks to an international regulation that is ironically called the Montreal Convention (or Montreal Protocol). It covers all international flights, but not domestic flights, unfortunately.

So WestJet also theoretically owes you 2 additional things if they cancel your international flight due to the strike:

  • Compensation for your losses due to the cancelation
    • Your lost wages for example
    • Any other loss
  • Reimbursement of certain expenses
    • Accommodation, meals, and transportation on-site during the delay
    • But it’s so much easier to get that refunded without any effort
    • Details of the amazing insurance benefits are below

To claim afterward, you need to cite Article 19 of Canada’s Carriage by Air Act. This one is a little less explicit, but apparently, in court, this strike announced in advance shouldn’t relieve airlines of their responsibilities based on case law. But let’s say I wouldn’t incur losses on purpose just to claim them, and for expenses, I’d certainly use my free insurance as always. I’m certainly no lawyer.

Once again, the airlines will do everything in their power to discourage travelers from getting what’s owed to them, by refusing to pay these compensations. They’ll try to stretch the passengers’ patience as far as possible so that they give up.

 

Your additional rights for flights from the EU or UK

In addition to your rights for all flights AND your rights for all international flights (listed above), you have additional rights if you’re traveling from the European Union or the United Kingdom (but not TO the EU or the UK in this case).

It’s the best scenario. You are also entitled to a simple guaranteed monetary compensation through what is called the EU 261 regulation (which can also make the reimbursement of certain expenses simpler than elsewhere, but not simpler than with free insurance).

So if they cancel such a flight due to the strike, WestJet also owes you:

  • Monetary compensation (in cash)
    • €600 (≈ $879) per passenger (delay of more than 4 hours)
    • €300 (≈ $440) per passenger (delay of less than 4 hours)
  • Reimbursement of certain expenses
    • Accommodation, meals, and transportation on-site during the delay

The difference is the claims process with this regulation is very efficient (not like in Canada). The one time I was lucky enough to have a delayed flight in Europe, I got my monetary compensation quite quickly and easily.

Note that this regulation also applies to flights TO these countries, but only IF the airline is European (which is obviously not the case with WestJet). By the way, this makes it more advantageous to travel on European airlines — at least if the price is the same — to be well-protected in both directions (and not just in one direction like with Canadian and American airlines).

And also, this regulation applies to some other European countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), but WestJet does not serve these countries (Switzerland, Iceland, Norway).

 

Your way to get free hotels and meals during the delay

It’s so easy to always get a free hotel and meals during any flight disruption, no matter the reason. Effortlessly.

I want to remind you of the most important thing, which is exceedingly useful to know for all travelers because you’re inevitably going to face flight disruptions someday.

(If your flights are never disrupted… clearly, you don’t travel often enough — and we want to help you change that!)

The most important thing is to always pay for any flight with a credit card that has flight delay insurance! It’s so simple, and so few people know it (like many travel tips). 

You’ll at least get free hotels and meals during a flight disruption, so at least you avoid:

  • Having to pay for it out of your pocket when the airlines owe you nothing (i.e. weather delays)
  • Having to fight with the airline if they are supposed to cover it
  • Having to wait in line and beg the airline for a hotel
  • Having to complain that you don’t have a hotel or that you have to pay for it

I don’t take the term lightly, it’s really THE most important thing when it comes to paying for a flight!

You will get this insurance for free better than free: you will get paid for this insurance because many cards with good welcome bonuses have this free insurance!

Here are the top few and stay tuned for a full guide to my 13 personal experiences with flight delay insurance claims (all of which have been positive).

Best credit card offers
(July 2024)
NEW
Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
Min. income (card):
Min. spend (bonus): $7.5k in 12 mos. (or $1k for lower bonus)
WELCOME BONUS
(Flytrippers VALUATION)
ends October 31st
Rewards: $825
Card fee: $0 $120
Best for: Very good
travel insurance
and earn rate
American Express® Gold Rewards Card
American Express Gold Rewards Card
Min. income (card):
Min. spend (bonus): $1k/month for 12 months
WELCOME BONUS
(Flytrippers VALUATION)
Rewards: ≈ $1180
Card fee: $250
Best for: Valuable rewards
and 4
airport lounge passes
Best
American Express Cobalt® Card
American Express Cobalt Card
Min. income (card):
Min. spend (bonus): $750/month for 12 months
WELCOME BONUS
(Flytrippers VALUATION)
Rewards: ≈ $900
Card fee: $156
Best for: Best overall
card
in Canada
TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card
TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card
Min. income (card):
Min. spend (bonus): $5k in 6 mos.
WELCOME BONUS
(Flytrippers VALUATION)
ends September 3rd
Rewards: $625
Annual fee: $0 $139
Best for: Among highest
offers for simple points
use for any trip
American Express® Aeroplan®* Card
American Express Aeroplan Card
Min. income (card):
Min. spend (bonus): $3k in 3 mos. + $1k
WELCOME BONUS
(Flytrippers VALUATION)
Rewards: ≈ $675
Card fee: $120
Best for: Valuable Aeroplan pts
without min. income
and lower min. spend
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.
Best credit card offers
(July 2024)
WELCOME BONUS
(Flytrippers VALUATION)
Best
for
NEW
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
Min. income (card):
Min. spend (bonus): $7.5k in 12 mos. (or $1k for lower bonus)
Rewards: $825
Card fee: $0 $120
Very good
travel insurance
and earn rate
ends October 31st
American Express Gold Rewards Card
Min. income (card):
Min. spend (bonus): $1k/month for 12 months
Rewards: ≈ $1180
Card fee: $250
Valuable rewards
and 4
airport lounge passes
Best
American Express Cobalt Card
Min. income (card):
Min. spend (bonus): $750/month for 12 months
Rewards: ≈ $900
Card fee: $156
Best overall
card
in Canada
TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card
Min. income (card):
Min. spend (bonus): $5k in 6 mos.
Rewards: $625
Annual fee: $0 $139
Among highest
offers for simple points
use for any trip
ends September 3rd
American Express Aeroplan Card
Min. income (card):
Min. spend (bonus): $3k in 3 mos. + $1k
Rewards: ≈ $675
Card fee: $120
Valuable Aeroplan pts
without min. income
and lower min. spend
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.

 

As for the WestJet situation specifically, if your flight is already booked, obviously you can’t go back if you made the common mistake of not paying with a credit card that has flight delay insurance.

At least fix that for the next time! That’s why one of the 7 most vital tips to travel for less (and better) is to invest the time to prepare your trips well!

If you paid with a credit card that offers flight delay insurance, validate that work conflicts are covered.

I just checked my 2 cards that I use most often to pay for flights (American Express Platinum Card and TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card) and both cover strikes… but there are 200+ cards in Canada and you paid for your WestJet flight with just one card, so just check your certificate of insurance for that card (it will be easier than us reading 200 insurance certificates).

If it’s covered by your card too, you’ll at least get meals and hotel covered effortlessly! Choose a Marriott hotel and earn points on that stay on top of everything, to get future free nights too!

 

Your responsibility to improve your odds

Theoretically, since this is a major situation, WestJet employees should be willing to do what they can to give you that… but if everyone wants to be accommodated at the same time to a very limited number of seats on other airlines, it’s not going to be particularly easy (especially since it’s a long holiday weekend).

As with everything else in the travel world, being quick and proactive will help you. Obviously, don’t go to the WestJet counter with nothing prepared, and hope they do everything for you… find the flight numbers and solutions you want and give it to them. Make their life easier.

Take responsibility for yourself, as we’ve already explained at length. We’ll improve and update that old post and clarify all the tips in our upcoming guide on flight disruptions, as mentioned.

 

Your recourse to enforce your rights

Canada has the weakest and least protective passenger “protection” regulations of any country that has them. It’s not just us saying this (and we’ve been saying it since launch day several years ago), a House of Commons committee also says so.

(Not surprisingly, because it’s not even debatable… despite the fact that people still blindly believe politicians’ bullsh*t. We saw during the pandemic that there are many people like that, unfortunately!)

That’s why, in Canada, there is a huge difference between:

  • What the airlines theoretically owe you according to the regulations
  • What the airlines decide to give you because they are not monitored

These are 2 very very very different things (here in Canada).

Once again, our federal government doesn’t know how to do anything other than be soft on everything, so the airlines have no consequences if they don’t comply with the regulations. So of course they often don’t!

You can make a complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency. At last count, there was a backlog of 71,000 complaints and an estimated 18-month delay for new ones to be processed. Very efficient — like everything else our federal government manages, basically.

So what this means in practice is that your rights are far from guaranteed.

You may have to go to small claims court against WestJet, it’s pretty much the only way to enforce your rights as a passenger in many situations because of this absolutely absurd Canadian system.

 

Your documentation of all interactions and events

You should record and document every interaction with airlines during disruptions, as this will be very helpful in enforcing your rights.

If you speak to an employee, there are free apps to record that. If you receive any communication whatsoever, keep it.

 

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Summary

The WestJet strike (or potential lockout) could affect air travel in Canada in the coming days. It’s very important to know your rights and some tips for these situations. Even if labor disputes are rare here (we are not in Europe, after all), there can still be plenty of disruptions so we’ll cover all these in more detail soon.

What would you like to know about the WestJet strike? Tell us in the comments below.

 

See the deals we spot: Cheap flights

Explore awesome destinations: Travel inspiration

Learn pro tricks: Travel tips

Discover free travel: Travel rewards

 

Featured image: People inside airport (photo credit: Jon Tyson)

 

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 71/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Chris

    Is there anything to do pre-emptively for a one way flight that is a month away? Las Vegas to Toronto on Westjet.

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      No, that’s way too far ahead. The strike will almost certianly be resolved by then. Only thing you can do if you’re reallyyyy scared is book a plan B in a fully refundable fare class on another airline 🙂

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