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Air Canada Pilots’ Strike: your rights, compensation and travel insurance

To the point Know your rights in case of a pilot's strike. Read about travel insurance and regulations for flights within Canada and international departures.

On May 19th, 2023, WestJet pilots and WestJet came to an agreement, thus avoiding a strike. However, Air Canada pilots officially joined ALPA as well to negotiate their contract, which expired in September 2023. Therefore, another pilots’ strike may be on the horizon next year.

While strikes are (kind of) common in Europe, an Air Canada pilots’ strike, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, is looming over Canadian passengers, and we may not be familiar with our rights if it happens. Indeed, they are beginning their negotiations and might be seeking a pilot’s strike approval, and your winter travels could be impacted as we’ve seen with WestJet in spring 2023.

First, you should know that while a pilot’s strike is considered is considered beyond an airline’s control, and customers shouldn’t be paying for a dispute between the company and its employees’ unions. Therefore, you are entitled to a refund if your flight is cancelled, or to have your itinerary completed, but your rights and compensation vary according to your itinerary.

While we are hearing about a possible Air Canada pilot’s strike in the news, the following applies to other carriers in the country as well.

Please note: This article does not constitute legal advice. For more information, we invite you to consult the APPR regulations, the Montreal Convention and the EU261/2004 law depending on your situation and to check your rights.

WestJet Canada

Pilots’ strike - When travelling within Canada

Pilots’ strikes are considered “outside carrier’s control” by the Canadian Transportation Agency for flights originating and ending in Canada. Therefore, you are under the APPR regulations in case of a pilots’ strike would be entitled to:

  • Rebooking you for free on another flight, even if it’s a competitor.
  • A full refund of any unused portion of the flight, in the original form of payment, if you decide not to travel anymore.

Pilots’ strike - When travelling internationally from Canada

If a pilots’ strike affects you, according to the Canadian Transportation Agency, you can expect the airline to ensure:

  • You can complete your itinerary
  • Or provide you with a refund

Pilots’ strike - When departing the European Union

If you booked a flight departing from an airport in the European Union to Canada and the company cancels it because of a pilots’ strike, the airline would need comply with all the following according to the EU261/2004 law since it is considered under the airline’s control:

  • Offer a new flight to your destination or return to your point of origin.
  • Offer a cash compensation of €400 if the disruption delayed you by less than 4 hours and €600 if it’s more.
  • Offer a full refund if you decide to return to your point of origin.
  • Offer meals, accommodation, ground transportation, etc.

If the strike is not due to pay and working conditions of the airlines’ employees but with third-party contractors, it is considered outside of their control since it affects workers who are not on their payroll officially.

Pilots’ strike - Travel insurance & coverage

While the Montreal Convention and the EU 261 laws cover basic expenses such as meals and accommodation for itineraries within Canada, you may be somewhat out of luck since a pilots’ strike is not under the airline’s control with the CTA. You’ll have to turn to your travel insurance; read your certificate carefully, and you’ll be able to find passages such as this one from the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite* Card:

Delay due to an unforeseen strike or other job action by employees of a Common Carrier, which means any labour disagreement that delays the scheduled arrival or departure of a Common Carrier.

Even if laws protect your flights, it doesn’t hurt to have an extra backup in terms of insurance, especially since great ones are offered to some credit card holders, you know, just in case. It’s important to remember that airline compensation is not the same as insurance.

It is your responsibility to check your own insurance coverage, as policies vary depending on different insurers. To ensure you have the right coverage for your trip, get the information directly from the insurer and, ideally, in writing, in case you need to make a claim.

While a pilots’ strike can affect your trip, many other things can too, and the regulations won’t always cover said things. For example, you may be subject to a broken leg a week before your long-awaited trip to Patagonia, or your son’s appendicitis may burst the day before going on your all-inclusive vacation.

Since it’s safe to assume that most people book their trips with a credit card nowadays, you should make sure to use the right one. We often see questions about the card that will give the best return for travel purchases in our community, but insurance is not to be neglected.

If you want to make the most of it, you can subscribe for a new credit card with excellent insurance and unlock a fantastic bonus with your trip’s expenses! The following cards have generous bonuses and offer excellent travel insurance:

Bottom Line

Employees of every sector have the right to demand more pay and better work conditions, so a pilots’ strike is not surprising. As we saw last summer, the travel landscape has changed: there is a staff shortage everywhere, and the demand is constantly increasing, resulting in more work and stress for those who still stand. Flight attendants and baggage handlers could also go on strike; who knows?

With laws and the proper travel insurance, you might be able to, at least, be compensated for your troubles if you run into a pilots’ strike in the coming months.

Finally, if you want to rely on your credit card’s insurance, make sure it’s open and active for your trip and the duration of your claim process!

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I'm Aline, an experienced traveller, a foodie at heart, an Avgeek, a photography enthusiast and an expert on credit card programs. I use Reward Points to travel on a budget and to save money on everyday life; writing about these topics allows me to share my passion and help you. ~ 7 continents and 75 countries ~

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