In addition to the down-to-the-wire negotiations between WestJet and its pilots, as well as their historic, 24 per cent pay raise over four years, one of the most dramatic aspects of Canada's latest airline labour story is the outcome for WestJet's discount airline Swoop.
On Friday, 09JUN, WestJet Group confirmed that the company's pilots had ratified the tentative agreement, reached, as Open Jaw reported, just hours before the first long weekend of high summer travel season.
It's the second collective bargaining agreement between WestJet and its pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). The agreement is retroactive to 01JAN, 2023, and will be in place until 31DEC, 2026.
“The WestJet Group is pleased to have reached an industry-leading agreement in negotiation with ALPA that recognizes the value and instrumental contributions of our current and future pilots,” said Alexis von Hoensbroech, WestJet Group's CEO. “This agreement bolsters our ability to provide certainty and career opportunities across our organization for years to come while ensuring the competitive sustainability of the WestJet Group.”
In confirming ratification of the agreement, the airline also acknowledged big changes were underway for WestJet's discount airline Swoop.
In a statement, WestJet said: "As negotiated in the collective agreement, the WestJet Group will now begin integration efforts of its ultra-low-cost airline, Swoop. Through an expedited process, the airline anticipates a full integration into its mainline operations by the end of October. To avoid traveller impact, Swoop will operate its existing network through to the end of its published schedule on October 28. Swoop employees will move to WestJet."
The move may support union goals of eliminating differences between employees doing the same work for different brands with different compensation. But it has raised concerns about Canadian travellers' access to cheaper flights, especially in remote regions.
WestJet's statement seemed to address those concerns and hints, as some suggested, that WestJet itself was going to provide more budget service.
“We continue our strategy toward providing reliable, affordable travel across the WestJet Group, leveraging the valuable experiences and learnings from the Swoop business model," continued von Hoensbroech's statement.
"This integration will enhance our ability to serve a broader spectrum of guests. Instead of only 16 aircraft serving the ultra-low-cost market, each aircraft, in our 180-strong fleet, will offer ultra-affordable travel options through to a premium inflight experience.”
And furthermore, the statement concluded: "The WestJet Group is committed to ongoing engagement with valued communities and stakeholders to ensure that the airline continues to provide critical and affordable air travel to communities across Canada."