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OTTAWA, ON – The new ratio of one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats proposed by Transport Canada will put Canadian passengers at risk. The new regulation means many aircraft will have at least one fewer flight attendant on board: not enough to provide an adequate level of safety to passengers in an emergency evacuation said CUPE Airline Division President Michel Cournoyer at the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council meeting on the proposed regulatory change.

His message was echoed by CUPE Airline Division flight attendants from all regions of the country. They took part in the consultation, both in person in Ottawa and via videoconference from other Canadian cities.

“The reality is that with the new ratio, we will have unstaffed emergency exits in Canadian planes in situations where passengers must count on fully trained flight attendants to help them,” explained Cournoyer.

For example, with the 1 in 50 ratio in effect, there is no full exit coverage on an Airbus A320. At full passenger load, three flight attendants are required to cover all four floor levels exits.

“There was already no margin of error in an emergency situation with the actual ratio of one flight attendant for 40 passengers. With a smaller crew to start with, imagine how things could turn if a flight attendant is injured during an evacuation,” said Cournoyer.

“Real life accidents show that flight attendants staffing ratio above the 1 in 50 standard do improve passenger chances of escaping in the event of an emergency. In 2005, when Air France Flight 358 crashed at Toronto Pearson Airport, all 309 people on board survived largely due to a rapid evacuation by the flight attendants. The ratio was one flight attendant for 30 passengers and all eight emergency exits were staffed,” added Cournoyer.

“Clearly, the 1 in 50 ratio provides a lower level of safety than the actual standard. Therefore, the safety proven ratio of one flight attendant for every 40 passengers must be maintained. In fact, Transport Canada’s own risk assessment report of July 2003 concluded that the 1 in 50 ratio did not provide the same level of safety.”

“Since Transport Canada is now willing to take a chance on passenger safety, we think it is time for the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to launch a public inquiry of proposed regulatory change that will put airline passengers at risk,” concluded Cournoyer.

CUPE represents over 10,000 flight attendants working for Air Canada, Air Transat, Calm Air, Canadian North, Canjet, Cathay Pacific, First Air and Sunwing.