Canada’s airline industry is approaching a “Mayday moment”. That was the message brought by representatives of CUPE’s flight attendants who appeared before the House of Commons Transport committee on Tuesday, as they demanded urgent federal action to support jobs in the sector.

“Since April, we’ve been hearing that financial aid for the industry is just around the corner to help protect tens of thousands of jobs,” said Wesley Lesosky, President of CUPE’s Airline Division and President of the Air Canada Component of CUPE. “And yet each time we think the government may act, we’re met with more delay and disappointment.”

COVID-19 has grounded most air travel in Canada, resulting in thousands of layoffs and grim prospects for the industry in the months ahead. Meanwhile, government programs like the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy have had mixed results, mostly failing workers at Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada.

CUPE has been calling for sectoral support focused on protecting jobs and pre-boarding rapid testing to make flying safer for cabin crew and the public.

“Sectoral support, coupled with a nationwide pre-board testing program is the only way to avoid the national disaster that would be the full or near full collapse of Canada’s airlines, and the associated economic devastation of the 633,000 jobs associated with the air transport sector,” said Chris Rauenbusch, President of CUPE Local 4070, representing cabin crew at WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop.