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WestJet expects flight disruptions for several days after major tech outage

WestJet said Sunday that its tech systems are back online but it would take time to get its schedule back on track.
Line of stranded travellers at WestJet counter snakes back on itself at Vancouver International Airport on Saturday night. Several hundred people were trying to figure out what to do next after WestJet halted its flights because of a computer system outage. TIMES COLONIST

WestJet said Sunday that its planes are flying again after a technology outage on Saturday that forced the cancellation of dozens of flights, but it would take several days to get its schedule back on track. It issued this statement on Twitter: "All systems are now online and stable. We unfortunately anticipate further disruptions as we work to recover from the system-wide outage. We are sincerely sorry for the significant inconvenience."

Online departure and arrival boards for airports across Canada listed several cancellations or delays for WestJet flights.

In a reply to a question on Twitter, a WestJet representative said early Sunday: "Rebuilding a schedule takes some time to get new crews, new landing windows, and get aircraft where they were originally scheduled to go."

Saturday's grounding of planes was caused by a problem at its primary data centre, WestJet said.

"On Saturday November 5, WestJet experienced a system-wide outage that impacted operations across our network due to a cooling issue in our primary data centre. Upon learning of the issue, we immediately implemented procedures to employ backup options and manual processes where possible, to minimize guest impact," said WestJet executive vice-president and chief operating officer Diederik Pen in a letter to customers.

Returning operations to normal will take several days, the letter said. "The technology outage has been resolved and all systems are online, but we are still experiencing some instability. Unfortunately, due to the scope of yesterday’s network impact, we continue to see residual disruptions. Further delays and cancellations in the coming days will be required, as we work diligently to recover our operations."

About 200 flights were cancelled on Saturday and Sunday, and many flights that did operate were behind schedule. 

At Vancouver International Airport on Saturday, hundreds of passengers lined up at the WestJet counter to try to rebook flights or to get vouchers for hotel rooms and meals. With flights still delayed on Sunday, many passengers heading for Victoria switched to a trip on B.C. Ferries, according to social media posts. 

On Sunday, some passengers faced hours-long lineups to re-book cancelled flights, and some had already been through the process more than once.

"I don't know what you're hearing from WestJet but if they're saying things are going back to normal, it's just an absolute lie," said Andrew Moreau, a WestJet passenger speaking by phone from Calgary International Airport.

Moreau, from Winnipeg, said he and two others were flying through Calgary on their way to Las Vegas on Saturday when they were told at the gate their flight was cancelled. After six hours in the terminal trying to book another flight, they were told nothing was available for Las Vegas, so the trio agreed they'd fly to San Francisco and drive the rest of the way.

But Moreau said as they sat at the gate on Sunday, the same thing happened — the flight was abruptly cancelled. They decided to abandon their trip and rebooked a flight back home to Winnipeg.

"This is what we've seen happen to just about everyone and we're starting to see the same people over and over again, being recycled through," Moreau said.

WestJet said the outage prevented its contact centre from accessing guest reservations.

It apologized to customers for the inconvenience.

Pen asked passengers whose travel plans weren't "imminent" to refrain from attempting to contact the airline until 72 hours in advance of their flights to ensure staff are able to prioritize calls.

"We are undertaking a full review on this incident, and it is my sincere promise that we will find areas of opportunity to improve," Pen said.

Many passengers expressed frustration on social media about their difficulty obtaining information from WestJet, the long hours in lines, and their inability to reach airline staff by phone.

Moreau said the airline provided food vouchers and accommodations on Saturday night. At one point, he said his group considered driving to Las Vegas from Calgary.

"There were no cars available to do that type of a trip," he said.

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Earlier story: 

WestJet suffered what it called a "system-wide outage" Saturday that delayed or cancelled its flights. 

The problem stranded WestJet passengers at airports across Canada. 

Late Saturday and early Sunday, online departure and arrival boards at airports across the country showed numerous delayed or cancelled WestJet flights. 

In a lineup of hundreds of people at WestJet's counter at Vancouver International Airport late Saturday, passengers reported receiving no information about when flights would be available. 

After a long wait in line, they were offered an airport-area hotel room for the night (until they ran out), and reimbursement for meals and cab fare. Some Victoria-bound passengers opted to stay in a hotel for the night and then travel to Tsawwassen for a ferry ride. 

WestJet said its contact centre has been unable to access guest reservations as a result of the outage. It didn't provide a reason for the outage. 

Calgary International Airport said in a Twitter message that passengers flying through its airport may be delayed “due to a WestJet global IT outage.” It said passengers should check with their airline for flight information.

WestJet has not said when service will be restored.

“WestJet is aware of a system-wide outage that is impacting operations and we continue to work on bringing all systems online,” said WestJet media relations adviser Madison Kruger in an emailed statement.

“We apologize for the inconvenience this is causing guests, as unfortunately, the impact of the outage is still being felt across our operations and is now resulting in additional cancellations and growing delays.”

The Vancouver airport said in a statement late Saturday: "WestJet’s operations are currently being impacted by a system-wide outage that began on November 5, 2022. The impact of the outage is resulting in delays and cancellations of WestJet flights at Vancouver International Airport (YVR)."


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