The union representing 9,500 flight attendants at Air Canada says Sunday’s tarmac fire at Trudeau International Airport in Montreal is a grim reminder of the risks that flight attendants face every day on the job, and the important role they play in ensuring passenger safety in the air - and on the ground.

A vehicle caught fire below an Air Canada aircraft in the process of deplaning Sunday afternoon, but the cabin crew was able to evacuate the passengers without injury.

“It’s thanks to the professionalism and training of our crew on board that plane that everyone was evacuated safely and no one was hurt,” said Wesley Lesosky, President of the Air Canada Component of CUPE. “But this incident is also a cruel reminder of the fact that the flight attendants who worked to evacuate this aircraft weren’t even being paid during the incident because Air Canada doesn’t pay their flight attendants when the plane isn’t in motion.”

A survey in December 2022 showed flight attendants in Canada, on average, work 35 hours unpaid every month, while they perform pre-flight safety checks, assist passengers during boarding and during ground delays, and - as in Sunday’s case - respond to emergencies on the ground.

“It’s incomprehensible that workers who take responsibility for hundreds of lives on the job every day should be working for free,” continued Lesosky. “This is precisely why we’ve been telling airlines and the feds for months that we’re done with the rampant abuse of unpaid work in our industry, and it’s time for this exploitation to end.”