The workers were told they would face fines of up to $1,000 daily and criminal charges if they didn't return to work.
About 150 workers walked off the job at Toronto's Pearson
International Airport on Thursday night in what Air Canada called "an illegal job action." It began because three workers were suspended for applauding ironically at Labour Minister Lisa Raitt. By Friday morning, the strike had spread to Montreal.
Those three workers have since been permitted to come back to work but will face disciplinary action later.
Cities across the country were feeling the effects on Friday, with at least 60 flights cancelled in Toronto, and dozens more in cities including Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.
A disappointed Trevor Jones, 50, of Toronto, was travelling to Cleveland to act as best man at his friend's wedding.
"I have the wedding ring with me and it doesn't look good," Jones said. "The wedding is at 5 p.m. and I am the best man."
Jane Halas, 46, said she left Kamloops, B.C., on Thursday and was trying to visit her sick mom in Ottawa.
"I don't even know where my baggage is anymore," Halas said in Toronto.
On Thursday evening, Gerry Rogers, an NDP member of the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature, said passengers on her flight from St. John's had to wait an hour to disembark after it landed in Toronto. She was one of many NDP conventioneers stranded or delayed by the strike and had been waiting another hour to retrieve her baggage when she spoke to QMI Agency.
MP Tony Clement, who is Treasury Board president, was also on the flight.
"Take that, Harperite union busters," Rogers said.
Clement, however, seemed unfazed.
"I think anybody who uses illegal job action to make their point is actually hurting their own cause," he told QMI Agency, adding that stranded passengers are frustrated with the union. "I'm sorry but you don't have the right to illegally walk off the job and wildcat."
When striking workers followed him, shouting things like, "We live in a democracy, Tony," he retorted: "See you guys on WestJet."
Earlier this month the federal government intervened in Air Canada's contract disputes with pilots and machinists and passed legislation to prevent a lockout or strike.
The airline is also scrambling to replace the services of its maintenance provider Aveos, which has obtained bankruptcy protection.
Air Canada has promised to waive fees for anyone who has to change their flight and is encouraging passengers to check AirCanada.com or call 1-888-247-2262 to check the status of their flights.
But fee waivers aside, the airline is still facing a backlash because of Friday morning's chaos.
- With files from Tom Godfrey, Kerri Breen, David Ritchie and Brian Daly