Photo credit: Mark Harkin, CC BY 2.0

The union representing 14,000 flight attendants across Canada says the federal government needs to listen and act decisively to make cabin environments safe for workers and the flying public amid the current surge of the omicron variant. To that effect, Wesley Lesosky, President of the Air Canada Component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and CUPE’s Airline Division, has written to federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, demanding the government get serious about the health and safety concerns of airline workers.

“The Cancun party flight is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what our members experience every day,” said Lesosky. “We have tough jobs as flight attendants, and they are being made much tougher as we are increasingly forced to police mask compliance and manage disruptive and increasingly aggressive passengers, while also navigating ever-changing COVID protocols.”

“We could use a little help from our government.”

In a January 7 letter to Alghabra, Lesosky called on the federal government to restrict non-essential onboard service that encourages passengers to unmask for lengthy periods of time, such as continual meal and drink service. Canadian flight attendants have repeatedly flagged to the government that these services drastically increase risks of transmission and are the primary drivers behind disruptive and aggressive passenger behaviour.

“The omicron variant is extremely contagious – far more than previous variants that were driving public and corporate policy,” wrote Lesosky. “Now is not the time to concern ourselves with whether or not someone got the cheese service onboard.”