Flight attendants ‘work for free’ as chaos grips Canadian airports: CUPE

Vancouver, British Columbia–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Flight Attendants Union of Canada says hundreds of flight attendants are being forced to work for free every day as they manage hour-long tarmac delays due to archaic airline policies and the understaffing at Canadian airports.

As air travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, understaffing at security and customs has resulted in long delays – regularly two hours or more – at both ends of the boarding and disembarking process. Flight attendants are on duty during many of these delays, performing essential job duties to keep passengers safe and often absorbing passenger frustration and abuse.

However, due to the unfair and outdated way of calculating flight attendant hours, they often perform these important tasks without compensation. Typically, flight attendants are only paid for time in the air, which means they are generally not paid during delays before takeoff and after landing.

“As flight attendants, we bear the brunt of the anger, frustration and abuse of the passengers who experience these delays, and to add insult to injury, many times we work for free for that we do,” said Wesley Lesosky, President of the Airline Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

Lesosky noted that this isn’t just about pay — it’s about health and safety. Flight attendants have contractual inbound crew rest minimums, but these rest periods are encroached upon and shortened as their duties end increasingly later due to significant ground delays.

“Two things are obvious here: First, the airlines and federal agencies that run our airports need to hire and pay their staff properly so they can keep our airports moving at a reasonable pace,” Lesosky said. “Second, the indefensible practice of not paying flight attendants for hours and hours of their working time must end now. This is not accepted in any other industry. If we are not paid, we do not understand how we can be made to work.

CUPE’s Airline Division represents 15,000 flight attendants from nine Canadian airlines.

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