Flight attendants walk through airportFlight attendants represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have launched the “Unpaid Work Won’t Fly” campaign, a national effort to end the widespread abuse of unpaid work in the airline sector that sees the average flight attendant in Canada work 35 hours every month for free.

“Much of the Canadian public has no idea that when flight attendants are doing their pre-flight safety checks, or assisting passengers with boarding, or helping passengers when their plane is delayed at the gate after a long journey, that the flight attendant isn’t even being paid,” said Wesley Lesosky, a flight attendant with CUPE 4094 and president of CUPE’s Airline Division. “It’s a dirty secret in this industry and one that we’re determined to expose and end for good.”

“If we’re at work, in uniform, doing our jobs and taking responsibility for our passengers, we should be getting paid – simple as that,” Lesosky added.

The campaign will aim to raise awareness about the situation facing flight attendants – who are responsible for keeping the flying public safe and comfortable on the ground and at 30,000 feet – and will culminate in a National Day of Action to End Unpaid Work on April 25, with events in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.

Visit UnpaidWorkWontFly.ca for more information about the campaign, events, and the work that flight attendants do every day.

Quick facts

In December 2022-January 2023, CUPE surveyed its airline sector membership about the issue of unpaid work, receiving responses from over 9,500 of its members. The survey found that:

  • Flight attendants work an average of 34.86 hours unpaid per month. That’s almost a full week every month.
  • Flight attendants are not paid for boarding, which can take up to an hour.
  • Flight attendants are not paid for their pre-flight prep and safety checks.
  • 99.5% of flight attendants aren’t paid when they’re checking in through security, even though they’re at work in uniform.
  • 98.6% of flight attendants aren’t paid while passengers deplane after a flight, even though they are still assisting passengers disembark.
  • 75% of flight attendants are only paid a partial wage for mandatory regulatory training, even though airlines and the federal government require several training days per year.
  • 98.4% of flight attendants are not paid when the plane is being held at the gate after landing, even though they are still assisting passengers, often in elevated temperatures.

CUPE is Canada’s flight attendant union, representing approximately 18,500 flight attendants at ten airlines nationwide, including Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat, Sunwing, Calm Air, PAL Airlines, Flair Airlines, Canadian North, PasCan, and Pivot Airlines.