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Canada’s flight attendant union says hundreds of flight attendants are being forced work for free every day as they manage hours-long delays on tarmacs due to archaic airline policies and understaffing at Canadian airports.
As air travel ratchets back up to pre-pandemic levels, understaffing at security and customs has led to lengthy delays – regularly two hours or more – at both ends of the boarding and deplaning process. Flight attendants are on-duty during many of these delays, performing critical work-related tasks to ensure passenger safety, and often absorbing passenger frustration and abuse.
However, due to the unfair and outdated way flight attendants work hours are calculated, they are often performing these important work duties unpaid. Typically, flight attendants are only paid for time in the air – meaning they are typically not compensated during delays before takeoff and after landing.
“As flight attendants, we bear the brunt of the anger and frustration and abuse from passengers who are enduring these delays, and to add insult to injury, quite often, we’re working for free while we do it,” said Wesley Lesosky, president of the Airline Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
Lesosky noted this is not just a compensation issue either – it’s a health and safety question. Flight attendants have contractual crew rest minimums upon arrival, but those rest periods are being encroached and cut short when their duties are ending later and later due to extensive delays on the ground.
“Two things are obvious here: first, airlines and federal agencies that run our airports need to hire and properly pay their staff so they can keep our airports moving at a reasonable pace,” said Lesosky. “Second, the indefensible practice of not paying flight attendants for hours and hours of their time at work needs to end now. This is not accepted in any other industry. If we aren’t being paid, we fail to understand how we can be made to work.”
CUPE’s Airline Division represents 15,000 flight attendants at nine Canadian airlines.
This press release was prepared and distributed by CUPE