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Air Canada will lay off roughly 5,100 cabin crew due to the drop off in flight service amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents Air Canada’s flight attendants, confirmed in a statement that the layoffs will affect roughly 3,600 mainline cabin crew and all 1,549 Rouge employees the union represents, and will take place over the next 48 hours.
“This has been the most challenging time any of us will likely ever experience as flight attendants,” said Wesley Lesosky, president of the Air Canada component of CUPE. “Our members have been on the front lines of this crisis since day one, and it has been a tough journey ever since. Our hearts go out to all of our members, especially those who fell sick while doing their job.”
A CUPE press release posted on March 20 said the layoffs will take effect April 30 at the earliest.
According to CBC, in a March 19 letter from Renee Smith-Valade, Air Canada’s vice-president of In-flight Service, the airline said it has “no choice” but to make the staffing cuts. On March 18, the carrier announced it would be suspending the majority of its U.S. and international routes in response to the ongoing outbreak. That means only 13 U.S. airports will still be served by the airline, while it maintains six international routes for the repatriation of Canadians stranded abroad.
According to CUPE, Air Canada employees affected by the layoffs will be able to collect employment insurance and still access benefits.
The layoffs come at the tail end of a crippling week for the aviation industry, in which a number of major airlines have had to suspend operations all together.