More and more WestJet flights are getting cancelled due to an ongoing labour dispute between the airline and its mechanics.

As of Sunday afternoon, more than 20 WestJet flights travelling into and out of Winnipeg Richardson International Airport were called off.

“The number is evolving,” said Tyler MacAfee, a spokesperson for the Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA) Saturday.

The WAA said it won’t be commenting on the issue itself, but encourages those travelling with WestJet to check with the airline for the latest information.

According to WestJet, more than 800 flights have been cancelled since the Aircraft Mechanic Fraternal Association (AMFA) went on strike Friday.

The strike came as a surprise after the federal labour minister Seamus O’Regan ordered both parties to submit to binding arbitration on Thursday, in an effort to find a settlement and avoid travel chaos during the Canada Day long weekend.

In an update Saturday morning, CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech and president Diederik Pen expressed their frustration with the situation.

“The (labour) minister has called CIRB (Canadian Industrial Relations Board) to mandate binding arbitration,” said von Hoensbroech. “So with this, the bargaining process has actually ended, because an arbitrator is going to decide on a contract, and not the bargaining table.

“This makes a strike totally absurd.”

On Friday, AMFA announced the strike is due to the airline’s “unwillingness to negotiate with the union.”

Von Hoensbroech said the airline is waiting to hear from the labour minister on next steps. Meantime, those whose travel plans were disrupted by the strike are being compensated with an overnight hotel stay.

It’s not the first time a labour dispute has thrown a wrench into WestJet holiday travel plans. In 2023, the airline narrowly averted a strike in the early hours of the May long weekend, but still cancelled more than 200 flights in the process.

‘It’s really frustrating’

Travellers at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport aired their grievances Saturday, as many waited to hear whether their flight was cancelled.

Zach Perry, a videographer from North Carolina, was supposed to fly to Edmonton with DJ duo Sunday Scaries for their next performance. However, the group is now stuck in Winnipeg because of the strike.

“It seems like the strike is working,” Perry said. “The customers are pissed off.”

Perry said they now have to talk to WestJet to try and reschedule their flight, or pay thousands of dollars to fly out with another airline.

“It’s really frustrating,” he said. “At the end of the day though…it could be a lot worse.”

The labour action is disrupting other passengers’ Canada Day plans.

Jeanette Krahn and her partner were on their way to Ottawa to visit Krahn’s sister, and celebrate the holiday in the nation’s capital.

Krahn said she kept checking on their flight to see if it was cancelled, but never received the confirmation.

“We thought maybe we got lucky,” she said, so they made their way to the airport. “We checked in, made it through security, got to our gate and that’s when we found out it was cancelled, too.”

Krahn said she’s disappointed and probably won’t try to rebook her flight.

“From what I’ve been hearing, the call centre is being overrun with so many flights cancelled,” she said. “You’re kind of stuck.”

When it comes to other airlines, Krahn said the prices they’re offering are just too high.

“I don’t want to pay double,” she said.

With files from The Canadian Press, CTV’s Stephen Hunt and Daniel Halmarson

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