05/22/2014 12:48 EDT | Updated 07/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Transport Canada In Talks To Cut Number Of On-Board Flight Attendants

35mm ISO 400Minolta SRT102, 50mm f/1.7

Air transportation experts and stakeholders are meeting today in Ottawa to discuss the federal government's proposal to introduce a regulation that would allow airlines to reduce the number of on-board flight attendants.

Transport Canada safety experts will discuss the proposal when they meet at the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council's day-long conference in Ottawa.

Flight attendants and industry representatives will also get to make their cases on the proposed ratio of one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats. Current regulations require one flight attendant for every 40 passengers.

CUPE Airline Division, the union that represents flight attendants, is against the changes. 

"The new ratio of one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats proposed by Transport Canada will put Canadians at risk," it said in a release.

It argues that fewer flight attendants means the adequate safety level will be reduced, especially in an emergency evacuation situation.

Last May, WestJet received a government exemption from the 1:40 ratio and was permitted to operate under 1:50, which is the international standard.

Following WestJet's exemption, the government decided to examine changing flight attendant requirements instead of just issuing exemptions.

The proposal was first raised in 2002 at the request of the airline industry. In 2006, then Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon announced that no changes would be made as the department was still studying the issue.

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