‘Somebody has to pay for it’: WestJet pilots deal could impact future travel costs

Click to play video: 'WestJet resolution could impact future travel costs'
WestJet resolution could impact future travel costs
WestJet resolution could impact future travel costs – May 27, 2023

WestJet pilots are bound to receive a decent pay raise following a strike notice last week that led to the cancellation of more than 230 flights.

While this may prompt a sigh of relief from those flying with the airline in the near future, according to a travel expert, the deal could lead to some complications later on.

WestJet pilots will be receiving a 24 per cent pay bump over four years under an agreement in principle between the company and the union. Pilots will also receive a 15.5 per cent hourly pay raise this year retroactive to Jan. 1 upon ratification of the deal.

While this looks like an improvement for the pilots, Canadian consumers might want to fasten their seatbelts.

“Should we be expecting an even further increase in flights and costs and fares? Potentially and most likely,” said travel expert Omar Kaywan.

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“At the end of the day, somebody has to pay for it and it’s going to be the passengers.”

Click to play video: 'WestJet reaches tentative deal with pilots'
WestJet reaches tentative deal with pilots

Pilots from WestJet’s discount subsidiary Swoop are also included in this deal, which begs the question of how the new deal will affect prices on the budget-friendly airline.

According to Kaywan, that question is still up in the air.

“Will it continue to compete in the low-cost carrier category or will it just completely kind of merge into WestJet?”

Kaywan said that flights are significantly more expensive now than they were at this time last year and prices could continue to rise.

“We’re seeing about 15 to 20 per cent minimum across-the-board price difference in flight costs. We’ll see how much these fares are going to change,” he said.

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Click to play video: 'Edmonton travelers seeking compensation after WestJet reaches tentative deal with pilots'
Edmonton travelers seeking compensation after WestJet reaches tentative deal with pilots

Other pilots from budget-friendly airlines like Lynx or Flair could also be looking closely at this Westjet deal, and that could put these airlines in a tough spot when it comes to retaining or recruiting staff.

“There are some pros and cons because some of these pilots with these smaller carriers have higher seniority, better scheduling, better work hours. Some of that would have to be sacrificed to go to a larger carrier,” Kaywan said.

Staff at major airlines like Air Canada have also been paying attention to the deal as the Pilots Association said workers must decide by May 29 whether to stick with their 10-year collective agreement.

“You can bet that Air Canada’s pilot union will be looking at this very, very closely,” said Rick Erickson, managing director of consulting firm R.P. Erickson and Associates.

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“’Does it make sense for me to stay here where I am? Or should I move over to one of the majors where I’ll get paid better for it but have completely different working circumstances?”’ observed Erickson, paraphrasing pilots who would have higher compensation but lower seniority — and thus worse scheduling options — on arrival at a large airline.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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