Air Canada Flights Returning to Normal After Pilots’ Walkout

Air Canada (AC/A) passengers faced disruptions on a handful of flights today, as pilots were ordered back to work after failing to report yesterday in protest of stalled contract talks.

The airline canceled today at least three flights, with destinations to Mexico City, Montreal and Ottawa from Toronto, according to the website of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Canada’s busiest airfield. At least six flights among Air Canada (AC/B)’s 289 scheduled for departure were delayed.

Canada’s Industrial Relations Board ruled yesterday that certain pilots were participating in an illegal strike. The board ordered the Air Canada Pilots Association to “take all reasonable steps” to end the walkout, while requiring all pilots participating in the job action to return to work immediately and “perform their duties in the normal manner,” according to the company.

“Nothing is changed from our release last night,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an e-mail message today. “What you are seeing today is a result of planes being out of position this morning due to yesterday’s events.”

About nine delays and cancellations also were reported at the Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax airports, according to departure-information websites. Montreal-based Air Canada said in a statement yesterday that it plans to resume regular service today after it canceled about 75 flights yesterday.

Stalled Talks

Customers who were scheduled to travel by today and wish to change their plans may rebook for free until June 30, the carrier said.

The disruptions are the latest illustration of how the stalled negotiations over new union contracts are affecting operations at Canada’s largest airline. Pilots are working under the terms of their last accord, which expired in March 2011, after talks begun in October 2010 failed to produce a new deal.

Air Canada Pilots Association Chairman Jean-Marc Belanger said yesterday that he sent members a memo on April 12 urging them not to walk off the job after Air Canada contacted the union about reports of a planned sickout. About 3,000 pilots are part of the union.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Fournier in Halifax, Nova Scotia at Cfournier3@bloomberg.net; Frederic Tomesco in Montreal at tomesco@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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