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Montra006c, Friday, June 25, 2004 While party leaders debate bilingualism in Canadian skies, Transport Canada is quietly preparing to cut the number of flight attendants on each flight. Current regulations require one flight attendant for every 40 passengers, but the department is considering reducing this ratio to 1 in 50, despite concluding in March 2001 that reducing cabin crew would have a negative impact on airplane security and do nothing to improve passenger safety.

Flight attendants with Air Canada and Air Transat were out early this morning at the entrance to Trudeau Airport in Dorval, distributing pamphlets to passengers. At a time when we are preparing to go to the polls, not only do we want the federal government to clearly state its intentions, we also want to know the position of the other parties on this issue, explained Suzanne St-Jean, Air Canada flight attendant and health and safety representative.

Similar efforts to raise public awareness have been staged over the past few weeks at airports in Halifax, Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg. Others will follow.

An issue of safety first and foremost

Several inquiries into airline disasters have shown that the cabin crew often make the difference in the number of dead or injured during an accident. For example, on August 24, 2001, Air Transat flight 236 was forced to make an emergency landing in the Azores. In just 90 seconds, thanks to the crew, 360 passengers were evacuated from the Airbus 330-220. Apart from some the trauma, only minor injuries were reported.

In the next few weeks, security standards in the airline sector could be up for review. Under pressure from carriers who want to reduce the number of attendants on each flight, Transport Canada is about to lower its requirements for airplanes with over 50 seats.

In 2001, Transport Canada rejected the same request from the airlines. In a decision handed down on March 26, 2001, the CARC concluded that it should not support the proposed regulatory amendments of flight attendant requirements. It was determined that the arguments presented in favour of a regulatory change did not demonstrate an equivalent level of safety to the existing rule.(Civil Aviation Regulatory Committee (CARC), 01/03/26-10.2 - Flight Attendant Requirements: NPA 2000-331 and 2000-332)

The carriers, however, did not give up, continuing to lobby government authorities. This time, it appears Transport Canada could give its approval within the next 45 days.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents some 8,000 flight attendants (Air Canada, Air Transat, Cathay Pacific, Calm Air, First Air), 1,500 of whom at located in Qub0065c. CUPE is the largest union in Canada, with approximately 535,000 members. In Qub0065c, CUPE has close to 100,000 members and is the largest FTQ affiliate.

This press release and other information are posted on the Internet at scfp.qc.ca

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Suzanne St-Jean, cell. (514) 830-3541
Robert Bellerose, CUPE Communications, cell. (514) 247-9266