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Alberta basketball teams’ flights cancelled just hours before east coast trip

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WestJet employees in Calgary, Vancouver could walk off the job if deal isn’t reached with airline
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Two Alberta basketball teams bound for the east coast to play in a national tournament in Quebec, suddenly had their WestJet flights cancelled just hours before takeoff.

Both the women’s U15 and U17 teams were booked on Toronto-bound flights from the Calgary International Airport at 7 a.m. on Sunday, then heading to Sherbrooke, QC. However, they were notified that their flights wouldn’t leave the runway as planned — leaving about 30 people grounded, trying to find a way out east.

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“Only a few hours before we were actually gonna you know, be there,”  said U17 head coach Dave Waknuk. “So there was a little bit of panic last night around midnight to three in the morning — three thirty in the morning by the time things kinda got sorted out.”

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Coach Waknuk called the situation “frustrating” and said many with the organization were worried about the trip in fear of cancelations or losing luggage and not wanting to check bags, having been aware of the situations playing out in Canadian airports recently.

An hour after the flights were cancelled, WestJet and team officials were able to get the teams rebooked on the redeye to Montreal, Sunday at midnight, then a two-hour bus ride into Sherbooke, meaning the team won’t arrive until 3 p.m. on Monday, just an hour before hitting the court for their first scheduled game.

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“Thankfully the tournament, through Canada basketball and Basketball Quebec, had moved our game back to 8:15 p.m., but it’s still going to be a very long travel day,” he says.

The team says it wasn’t given a reason for the cancellation, but a spokesperson with WestJet confirms the flights were cancelled due to crew issues.

A statement from the airline reads in part that, “while WestJet is not immune to the challenges currently facing the industry, we have worked to balance our network flying in line with sufficient staffing levels to support our operational needs. Prior to the beginning of summer season, all WestJet flight crew have been recalled and we are balancing stable growth in line with industry.”

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“It’s one thing to have this plan in,” said Waknuk. “We just hope that everything goes smoothly from here on and that we’re able to get there now with a new set of plans. But that’s all we can do.”

WestJet says it has a flight completion rate of just over 97 per cent, and cancels on average less than three per cent of daily flights.

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