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Transport Canada Aims For Fewer Flight Attendants, Revamp Of Regulations

06/12/2013 04:08 EDT | Updated 06/13/2013 04:45 EDT
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Canadian skies could look a little less friendly if the federal government passes new rules that will allow airlines to cut the number of cabin crew without any consultation.

Transport Canada says it's looking to change the rules governing the ratio of passenger seats to flight attendants so the rules apply to all Canadian carriers. The government agency made an exception for WestJet in May, allowing the airline to drop the ratio from 50:1 to 40:1. Since then, Air Canada has also applied for an exemption, referring to airlines in the States and Europe which fly with one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats.

Air Canada's chief executive, Calvin Rovinescu, says the move will save the company $30 million a year on just their narrow-body fleet. Rovinescu also said that, if possible, he'd like to see the exemption applied to their wide-body planes, according to the National Post. Porter only flies narrow-body aircraft

Rovinescu's comments haven't flown under the radar of Air Canada's flight attendants' union, which has threatened to take legal action over the matter.

"Because the rights and interests of our members to a safe and secure workplace will be directly affected, we are entitled to make our case for passenger safety before an exemption is granted. If a unilateral decision is made by Transport Canada, we will judicially review it based on a lack of procedural fairness," said Michel Cournoyer, CUPE Airline Division President.

The union represents over 10,000 flight attendants, including those working for Air Canada, Air Transat and Sun Wing.

This isn't the first time airlines have pressured the government to allow them to reduce the size of cabin crews. Back in 2006, Lawrence Cannon, the acting transportation minister, turned down a similar request to reduce the ratio of passengers to attendants, citing “the important contribution flight attendants make, particularly with respect to the orderly evacuation of aircraft,” the Vancouver Sun reports.

It's a notion Cournoyer agrees with, adding that when it comes to airline emergencies, flight attendants are a passenger's lifeline.

"The ratio of one flight attendant for every 40 passengers is safety-proven and the government should not play Russian roulette with passenger safety. In an emergency situation, be it [sic] a an evacuation, a fire, a cabin decompression or a terrorist attack, every second counts," Cournoyer said in a release.

With Files From The Canadian Press

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story said that the Transport Canada's ratio was one flight attendant for every 40 passengers, when it is in fact one flight attendant for every 40 passenger seats.

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