Air Canada

Air Canada union expects 5,000 layoffs due to COVID pandemic

The Canadian Union of Public Employees has warned members Air Canada Rouge, seen here, will have zero flying hours in April (photo: Brett Ballah).

The union representing flight attendants at Air Canada expects more than 5,000 layoffs in the coming days, as the airline grounds planes and cuts dozens of cities from its network – an 80% cut, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“The approximate Mainline surplus for the month of April is 3,600 members and Rouge will have all members, 1,549 deemed surplus. Rouge will in effect have zero flying hours for the month of April 2020,” the union said in a post signed by union officers Wesley Lesosky, Theresa Mitchell, and Alex Habib.

Air Canada has said it will maintain service to six international cities, 13 airports in the United States, and 40 airports in Canada, leaving almost two dozen municipalities in Canada without service from the country’s largest airline.

“The Company will commence the process of calling members and placing them on ‘Off Duty Status’ as early as within the next 48 hours,” said the CUPE officers. “Off Duty Status allows you to collect Employment Insurance and maintain benefits, along with travel benefits.”

Air Canada told the union it was making the cuts due to a “force majeur” caused by an unprecedented drop off in demand as government tell people to stay home.

The announcement brings the number of laid off staff in the airlines well past 10,000, with Sunwing, Air Transat, and Porter Airlines announcing they would ground all their planes until conditions improve, and Westjet planning significant staff cuts as it cuts international flying and reduces domestic capacity by 50%.

Hundreds more layoffs are likely when Air Canada decides how to handle pilot capacity.

“The Air Canada Pilots Association intends to work collaboratively with Air Canada as we believe it is in our mutual interest to reduce the impact of this disruption to our members,” said Captain Andre Soucy, Acting Master Elected Council Chair in a statement Monday.

Despite the difficult conditions and the potential loss of their jobs, flight attendants on Westjet flight 655 found a way to make Monday special for a group of high school students from the Briercrest Christian Academy in Caronport, Saskatchewan.

They were on their way back to school from a National Women’s Volleyball Championships in Québec City when they found out their school would be going on-line due to the pandemic, and graduation would not happen as planned in April.

When they heard, the flight attendants whipped up an impromptu graduation ceremony at 39,000 feet, complete with certificates and walks down the aisle.

The video is worth a watch, particularly in these troubled times.

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