EVA Air Strike: What to Do on Aeroplan Bookings

I had mentioned in one of my email newsletters a few weeks ago that EVA Air flight attendants were strongly considering strike action in the midst of stalled negotiations with airline management. Indeed, as of yesterday, June 20, the Taoyuan Flight Attendants Union (TFAU) announced that flight attendants would go on indefinite strike, resulting in over 100 cancellations of EVA Air flights on June 21, 22, and 23 and more cancellations on the horizon. 

 
 

The TFAU made a brief announcement on its Facebook page, which basically declares that no services will be provided by its members after 4pm on June 20, and that its members should gather at the strike site upon seeing the message.

EVA Air made a statement in response, and I’ve included a few relevant excerpts below:

EVA Air is deeply disappointed that TFAU initiated a strike without providing prior notice, seeking better benefits for its members while sacrificing interests of our passengers. EVA sincerely apologizes to passengers and everyone affected by this strike for the disruptions caused by canceled and rescheduled flights. We are also sorry for the public disturbance caused by the strike’s impacts.

EVA immediately deployed an emergency response team as soon as we learned TFAU had called the strike. Our priority is to minimize inconvenience to our passengers without compromising flight safety.  After confirming the number of cabin crew willing to work as scheduled, we are doing our best to operate as many flights as possible.
— EVA Air


Background on TFAU Strike

TFAU represents over three-quarters of EVA Air’s cabin crew employees, and have been locked in negotiations since 2017 with Taiwan’s second-largest airline over higher allowances and less taxing work schedules for its members. 

TFAU has been seeking an increase in the hourly allowance for cabin crew members when on layover, from NT$90 ($4) to NT$150 ($6); moreover, they’ve been calling upon EVA Air to allow its crew to work only one leg instead of two on a handful of regional routes, citing that the current shifts on these routes exceed 12 hours in duration in contravention of Taiwan’s Labour Standards Act.

The union maintains that strike action was necessary as EVA Air did not negotiate in good faith, threatening to cut pay and benefits of members who planned to go on strike. Meanwhile, EVA Air insists that the airline “has made every effort to avoid a strike”, and that “TFAU has never been satisfied with any of [the airline’s] offers and has refused to provide any concrete responses”.  

Personally, I’ve heard about EVA Air flight attendants’ strenuous working conditions quite a few times over the years (some more strenuous than others), so I’m not surprised at all that the union is finally taking action. One thing’s for sure, though: EVA Air accuses the union of striking “without providing prior notice”, but anyone who’s been observing this situation for the past few months will know that this outcome was probably inevitable.


Impact on Aeroplan Bookings

EVA Air has one of the best business class products among Star Alliance airlines – indeed, I’ve always recommended EVA Air as the first-choice business class product when flying transpacific, and I’ve often said that flying EVA Air business class is akin to flying First Class on some other airlines, at least in terms of the soft product and the service.

The airline also boasts a very strong offering in economy class as well, so it was always one of the most popular choices for those of you redeeming your Aeroplan miles for award travel to Asia or around the world. 

EVA Air 777 business class

EVA Air 777 business class

If you have travel planned on EVA Air over the next few weeks – but especially if it’s over the next few days when the strike looks dead-set to take place – you have my sympathies. It’s truly an unfortunate situation when carefully-laid travel plans are affected by industrial action, especially when it might compromise an opportunity to try out something as nice as EVA Air business class.

First you’ll want to check whether your flight is being affected. Note that the TFAU only represents about 3,000 out of EVA Air’s 4,000 cabin crew, so there will still be some crew members around to operate flights. Looking at the list of cancelled flights on Taiwan News, it seems that the vast majority of EVA Air’s long-haul routes are indeed affected by the strike, with most of the remaining flights limited to a handful of regional sectors.

(EVA Air has previously stated that priority will be given to their Los Angeles and San Francisco routes when considering which of their long-haul flights will continue operating.)

EVA Air 787 business class

EVA Air 787 business class

The standard procedure for making alternative arrangements in situations like these is to contact the travel agent that booked your ticket; if you redeemed Aeroplan miles, that would mean calling Aeroplan to book alternative flights.

Based on reports from some people who have already called in, it seems that:

  • Aeroplan is only rebooking affected customers who are travelling on dates up to June 24 at the moment

  • Aeroplan is only offering re-routing on existing open award space on Star Alliance airlines, instead of opening up additional award space through Air Canada

  • The usual change fees and any differences in taxes or surcharges will be waived

If you have travel booked on EVA Air over the next few days, you’ll definitely want to call Aeroplan to make alternative travel plans. It can be helpful to look for available award space before calling in so that you know what to ask for – other than EVA Air, the next-best business class for flying transpacific is probably ANA business class, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll have award space available. 

Air Canada business class would also be a comfortable enough ride, and you wouldn’t have to pay any of the fuel surcharges that normally comes with Air Canada. Although Aeroplan has been telling some members that they won’t open up additional award space through Air Canada, I personally feel that you might well be able to get a supervisor involved to make this happen, especially if you insist on travelling on the most convenient schedule.

For example, if you were booked on the Vancouver–Taipei route (or Vancouver–Seattle–Taipei or something like that), the most sensible re-routing option would be Air Canada’s six-times-weekly service between Vancouver and Taipei, so I think it would be reasonable to ask that you are protected on that flight.

Air Canada 787 business class

Air Canada 787 business class

Note that both EVA Air and the Taiwanese transport ministry have sought help from China Airlines, a SkyTeam member and Taiwan’s largest airline, to protect affected customers as well. Aeroplan doesn’t have the ability to book passengers on China Airlines, so this isn’t really an option for changing your ticket ahead of time; instead, I’d imagine it would only come into play if you show up at the airport with a cancelled EVA Air flight and China Airlines happens to have an available seat on their plane.

The safest move for affected travellers is definitely to make alternative arrangements through Aeroplan, but if you have the flexibility and don’t mind travelling a day or two later, I imagine you could try leveraging the EVA Air strike as a backdoor way of trying out China Airlines’s fantastic business class product on their Airbus A350 as well. 

China Airlines A350 business class

China Airlines A350 business class


Conclusion

Over 8,600 passengers were impacted on the first day of the EVA Air flight attendants’ strike, so this episode of labour action could have far-reaching consequences. I’m hopeful that EVA Air and TFAU and come to an agreement as soon as possible (certainly before my scheduled EVA 787 flight in November!); in the meantime, if your Aeroplan booking on EVA Air has been affected, you’ll want to clear things up and make alternate travel plans with the Aeroplan call centre as soon as possible.

If your EVA Air flight has been affected, feel free to help out your fellow travellers by sharing in the comments how you managed to get rebooked!