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Nanaimo family stranded in Rome after flight cancelled due to near pilot strike at WestJet

A smooth weekend hasn’t been the case for some Island travellers. Many have come to expect busy ferry terminals and roadways, but one Nanaimo family has been caught up in a near strike at WestJet.

The Van De Leur family was supposed to fly home Friday morning from Rome after a three week European vacation.

“And we just got an extended vacation because WestJet cancelled our flight today,” said Godfrey Van De Leur.

1,800 pilots from WestJet and Swoop were ready to walk off the job at 5 a.m. Friday if a deal wasn’t reached between them and their employer.

A last minute agreement was made, but WestJet still cancelled the Van De Lear’s flight home through an email notification. Now the family says they are in complete limbo.

“I tried to call multiple times on different numbers they have on their website, but just can’t get through,” said Van De Leur. “It won’t connect the call to even be put on hold.”

They were given a hotel voucher worth $500 Canadian dollars. That won’t go very far in Rome, Van De Leur said.

“Right now you can’t get a room in Rome for under 500 euros,” said the stranded passenger.

In a statement to CTV News, WestJet said: “We sincerely apologize to every guest whose travel plans were impacted as a result of labour negotiations and appreciate their continued patience during this time.”

The family’s patience is beginning to run out.

“Well, generally the May long weekend is the unofficial kick-off to the summer season,” said Deborah Marshal, executive director of public affairs at BC Ferries.

BC Ferries has added 95-sailings to its major routes.

“So both the Tsawwassen Terminal as well as the Horseshoe Bay Terminal are quite busy today, and we expect that to continue into tomorrow morning,” said Marshal Friday.

On this side of the straight, Monday is expected to be its busiest day with people making their way back to the mainland.

Traffic volumes are expected to increase throughout the weekend on Island roads.

“Drivers really need to be mindful,” said Shabnem Afzal, director of road safety, policy and programs with ICBC.

Afzal says on average, two road deaths are recorded every year in B.C. during the May long weekend.

“Up to 480 people are injured in crashes in B.C. on the Victoria Day weekend,” said Afzal.

She recommends you plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to ensure you make it home safe.

Back in Rome, an update from the Van De Leur family from WestJet.

“They found a flight for us and the flight leaves on Sunday afternoon around 2pm,” said Van De Leur.

However, the airline will not be reimbursing them for another night’s stay in a hotel.

“It was beyond WestJet’s control this labour disruption,” said the stranded man.

They’re out $800 for Saturday night’s hotel stay, and say they will appeal WestJet’s response for reimbursement once they are back home in Nanaimo. Top Stories

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