(Reuters) - The union representing flight attendants at Canada's biggest airline served strike notice on Friday, opening the door to a work stoppage from one minute past midnight on Wednesday unless there is a last-gasp deal, or unless the government legislates the strikers back to work.
Both Air Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents the airline's 6,800 flight attendants, said talks would continue until the deadline.
"We still hope to come to an agreement with Air Canada," Jeff Taylor, president of the CUPE's Air Canada Component, said in a statement.
Air Canada said that in the event of a strike it will fall back to a partial schedule, which includes codeshare flights operated by its partner airlines. It said customers could rebook flights without charge.
Analysts have said a strike would hobble Air Canada's ability to fly to the more than 100 destinations it serves in Canada, the United States and internationally.
Any job action by the flight attendants, whose contract expired on March 31, is likely to be short-lived as the Canadian government is expected to quickly legislate employees back to work.
The key stumbling blocks between the two sides are over wages, working conditions and the preservation of pensions.
This would be the second strike to hit Air Canada this year. Unionized sales and ticketing agents struck for three days in June, spurring the federal government to introduce back-to-work legislation.
Separately, CUPE has filed a grievance with the Canada Industrial Relations Board over a training program Air Canada has instituted for replacement workers in preparation for a possible strike.
Reporting by Nicole Mordant and Janet Guttsman