OTTAWA – On at least a hundred and thirty separate occasions, Air Canada violated conditions imposed by Transport Canada when the company was granted an exemption to operate its narrow-body fleet with a reduced ratio of one flight attendant per 50 passenger seats, instead of the safety-proven ratio of one flight attendant per 40 passengers.

The breaches began when the exemption was first granted in September 2014 and have since continued to re-occur in contravention to the issued exemption. The union representing Air Canada flight attendants reported in writing the details of all these violations to Transport Canada.

“Air Canada has received reports on all of these breaches, including formal written reports from cabin crew outlining the specifics of the breaches. These reports have been ignored or dismissed by Air Canada management,” said Michel Cournoyer, president of the Air Canada Component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). “Since Air Canada was fully aware of the violations of the conditions in the exemption and have refused to act on them, Transport Canada must suspend the operation of the 1:50 exemption given to Air Canada until the department conducts a full investigation into these violations.”

For example, Air Canada has violated the exemption repeatedly by designating a flight attendant to act as the in-charge flight attendant prior to departure when the exemption’s conditions only allows this replacement to occur if the in-charge flight attendant becomes incapacitated after departure. In-charge flight attendants receive specific training pertaining to the management of the cabin crew on-board in normal and emergency situations. As a result, flights were operated without a fully trained in-charge flight attendant to lead the entire cabin crew and act as the liaison between the operating pilots and cabin crew.

Other violations of the Air Canada exemption include: boarding passengers on an aircraft with no cabin crew on board and boarding passengers in the absence of a designated in-charge flight attendant on board.

In addition, Transport Canada’s exemption requires that Air Canada carry a copy of the exemption and its conditions on board the aeroplane at all times. “When our members checked, the document could not be found”, said Cournoyer. “By withholding copies of the exemption, Air Canada is in effect preventing flight attendants from being fully informed about the exemption’s specific safety procedures to maintain the safety of passengers and crew.”

“An exemption is an exception to the normal operating rules affecting passenger and crew member safety. This exemption, already representing a significant reduction of Transport Canada’s established aviation safety standards, was granted with a set of 21 firm conditions. According to Transport Canada’s own rules, each and every condition must be met for the safe operation of Air Canada’s narrow-body aircraft.  If any one of these conditions are not met, such violations are serious and render the issued exemption null and void.”

CUPE is the union representing over 7,000 flight attendants at Air Canada. CUPE also represents flight attendants employed Air Transat, Calm Air, Canadian North, Canjet, Cathay Pacific, First Air and Sunwing.

For more information:
Philippe Gagnon
CUPE Media Relations
613 894-0146
pgagnon@cupe.ca