Unions representing flight attendants and pilots said delays at some Canadian airports have forced flight crews to work without pay while planes are held at the gates.
Rebounding air travel and staff shortages at customs and security checkpoints mean passengers face long waits for boarding, takeoff and disembarkation — particularly in Toronto Pearson.
Most flight crews are only paid when the aircraft is in motion, which, oddly enough in their contracts, means they perform their jobs without compensation while at the terminal gate. In addition, airlines count the unpaid time that begins when the plane arrives at the gate as part of the rest time toward the next flight for the crew, creating potential safety and fatigue issues, said Wesley Lisowski, president of the Canadian Federation of Public Employees, which represents 15,000 flight attendants. Fly in nine airlines.
“What we see every day – and it’s getting worse – is planes landing and then you’re not even allowed to get off the plane. [Canada Customs] “Free to greet you,” said Mr. Lisowski of Port Moody, British Columbia, “so the flight attendants are left on the plane with passengers waiting to say, ‘Okay, you can leave the people.
Barrett Arman, pilot and president of Unifor, which represents 410 pilots at Sunwing Airlines, said employers have warned pilots they could be fired if they don’t stay on board until the last passenger has left. He said this can take about two hours in Pearson.
“The flight checks, all the flight plans we made, all the weather checks, the weight and balance, everything really for the safety of the flight, we do for free. And then when the plane shoves backwards [leaves the gate]Mr. Arman said in an interview. “And when the plane arrived at the gate, we stopped paying our salaries.”
Mr. Lisowski said the flight attendants were subjected to verbal abuse from impatient passengers.
He said, “When you land at 6:03, you plan, ‘Okay, at 6:30 I’ll be in the cabin, at seven, I’ll be home.'” When you’re on the plane at 10 and nobody gives you an answer for what Happens, you’re ready to be tied up. all of us. It can definitely become tense. We’ve certainly heard of cases of people being yelled at.”
Both union leaders said they have taken steps with their airlines to ensure that people get paid for their work. Sunwing has not responded to an email.
Airlines and airport operators say government agencies that screen passengers are understaffed and unprepared to ramp up passenger numbers in recent months. Canada Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), Canada Border Services Agency, Public Health Canada and US Customs laid off workers at the start of the pandemic, and re-employment was slow, delaying passenger checks. These actions currently include medical exams, filling out an ArriveCan app, random COVID-19 tests, and proof of vaccination.
All of these layers add to the time it takes to get past the queue. The tourism industry warns that the formations will only get worse in the summer.
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which manages Toronto Pearson, has called on the government to scrap some health checks to simplify arrivals and departures.
Government spokeswoman Laurel Lennox said Canadian Transport Minister Omar Alghabra met with CAATSA chief Michael Saunders to ensure the agency was implementing a plan to hire staff and end delays. “We understand Canadians may be frustrated by this situation, and we ask them to be patient as we are working hard with our partners to resolve this issue,” said Ms. Lennox.
Christopher Blore, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, said the delays in Toronto Pearson are hampering the recovery of tourism across Canada. Toronto Pearson is a gateway for international travelers visiting Toronto and continuing to other Canadian destinations. Mr. Blore said the current travel experience will have detrimental and lasting effects on how Toronto and Canada are viewed on the international stage.
Mr. Al-Ghubra said on Wednesday that staffing shortages in government agencies were not the only reason for the delay. He told reporters that travelers who are unaccustomed to having their luggage ready for security screening and changing flight schedules also contribute to this.
Mr. Arman scoffed at this. “I can assure you they are not rusty travelers,” Mr. Arman said. There is a big problem at the airport. It has nothing to do with rust.”
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