06/06/2012 06:30 EDT | Updated 08/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Air Canada Exec Duncan Dee Resigns


Duncan Dee, a key Air Canada executive who has been at the centre of recent troubled labour negotiations, is resigning as chief operating officer, the airline announced Wednesday.

The announcement comes as the remaining labour contracts — with pilots and machinists — are to be settled through arbitration in the coming months.

After 15 years with the firm, Dee will retire this fall.

"Duncan's contribution to Air Canada during the course of his career has been very significant," said CEO Calin Rovinescu in a release.

"Duncan has held many different roles at Air Canada over his career, but in his role as chief operating officer, he has helped both shape our strategic direction and lead the airline through the challenges of transformation," said Rovinescu.

"Under his leadership, Air Canada achieved significant operational and cost efficiencies,."

Air Canada has been involved in bitter and continuing labour problems over the past year with its pilots, mechanics, flight attendants and ground crews.

In October 2011, police responded to a report that a man with a gun showed up at Dee’s Ottawa home. No one was injured or charged in the incident.

Planes less full in May

The latest disruption came April 13, when the airline cancelled or delayed more than 100 flights from major Canadian centres after some pilots called in sick to protest being forced back to work by federal legislation.

The threat of a lockout of the pilots prompted the federal government to intervene in the dispute earlier this year with back-to-work legislation.

The legislation allowed an arbitrator to impose a settlement if the two sides couldn't reach an agreement.

A similar arrangement was imposed on the airline and the union that represents its 8,600 mechanics, baggage handlers and cargo agents.

The federal government had to also intervene last year in disputes with the airline's customer service staff and its flight attendants.

At the same time it announced Dee's pending departure, the airline announced that its fleet flew with slightly more empty seats in May.

It reported a load factor of 81.6 per cent last month, compared with the same period a year earlier, when its planes were 82.2 per cent full on average.