CUPE has consistently fought against the 1:50 regulatory change that was ushered in by the federal government in 2015. The increase in the flight attendant to passenger ratio from 1:40 to 1:50 means that there are fewer cabin safety personnel on flights to respond to emergency situations. This constitutes an unnecessary and unacceptable risk for passengers and cabin crew.
A recent Transport Safety Board of Canada (TSB) finding and a Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) ruling both support CUPE’s concerns and the ongoing challenge to the 1:50 ratio.
In March 2015, Air Canada flight 624 was involved in a crash when the plane struck the ground at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Injuries were sustained by both passengers and crew members.
The actions and efforts of the flight’s cabin crew ensured the plane was evacuated quickly and safely. The accident occurred after Air Canada received an exemption under the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) to operate its Airbus 320 aircraft under the revised 1:50 ratio.
The flight attendants’ conduct was exemplary given that none of them had received the dual-exit drill training that Air Canada was required to provide in order to operate under the revised 1:50 ratio. In fact, Air Canada did not even begin to provide the required training to flight attendants until after the accident.
Sunwing also received an exemption to operate under the revised 1:50 ratio in 2013. The Federal Court of Appeal found that Transport Canada granted the exemption without conducting a comprehensive review of the airline’s evacuation procedures to confirm that Sunwing could safely operate its flights with one less cabin crew member onboard.
Both the TSB and the Federal Court of Appeal show that the implementation of the 1:50 ratio was rushed. In each case, Transport Canada, along with Air Canada and Sunwing, failed to guarantee that an emergency situation could be effectively dealt with by crew members as required under the new 1:50 regulation.
They also ruled that airline procedures must be properly amended so that all aircraft can be safely operated when new regulations are introduced. When such measures are not taken, the lives of passengers and CUPE members are placed at risk.
Recently, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN) unanimously recommended that the federal government review the 1:50 ratio. The NDP added that the 1:50 ratio “is clearly insufficient to ensure passengers’ complete safety in the event of turbulence, cabin decompression, on-board fire or emergency evacuation.”
The findings of the TSB and the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal are major wins for CUPE. We are hopeful that the federal government will do what’s right to promote and prioritize safety in the airline industry by reinstating the 1:40 ratio.