CUPE welcomes the recent recommendation of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities that the federal government review the current flight attendant ratio of 1 flight attendant for every 50 passengers. CUPE expects the government to move quickly on this issue.

The committee’s report is a follow-up to hearings held from April to June 2017 on the safety of Canada’s civil aviation system. CUPE is pleased to note that committee members echoed our recommendations, which were presented at the hearing on April 6.

During the federal election, the Liberal Party criticized the Conservative government’s decisions on aviation safety. The Liberals committed to “make informed decisions based on evidence and data,” and promised to keep the safety of all Canadians as a top priority.” CUPE expects the government to respond positively to the report and support its adoption in the House, so that  the ratio can quickly be revised, restoring a proper level of air safety for passengers and crew.

“We are confident the Liberal government will make the safety of all Canadians a priority by quickly starting the process of revising the ratio, and delivering on its promise to hold appropriate consultations with stakeholders and experts,” said Mark Brancelj, President of CUPE’s AirlineDivision.

CUPE represents more than 10,000 flight attendants employed by nine airlines. CUPE explained to parliamentarians that the change in the ratio of flight attendants to passengers exposes air carriers and passengers to much greater risk, all to cut costs.

At the hearings, Jordan Bray-Stone, chair of the Health and Safety Committee of CUPE’s Airline Division, said that when emergency exits are left unattended because there aren’t enough flight attendants, passengers have to assume the responsibility. These passengers are not mentally prepared, and they lack the training to deal with an emergency exit. This constitutes an unnecessary and unacceptable risk for passengers and crew members.

CUPE would like to acknowledge the work of the New Democratic Party, which, in a companion report, took a strong stand in favour of re-establishing the 1:40 ratio for flight attendants. The NDP rightly concluded that the current ratio “is clearly insufficient to ensure passengers’ complete safety in the event of turbulence, cabin decompression, an on-board fire or an emergency evacuation.”

“Given the existing studies, we hope that the government will reinstate the one in 40 ratio as soon as possible. It’s a ratio that’s been demonstrated to be safe,” said Brancelj.