News Column

Air Canada should cancel request for Transport Canada exemption

Jul 12 2013 12:00AM



OTTAWA, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 07/12/13 -- As more details emerge following Asiana flight 214's tragic crash in San Francisco on Saturday July 6th, CUPE flight attendants are hoping that Air Canada learns from the flight attendant ratio on the airplane at the time of the accident.

The rapid actions taken by the flight attendants working with the passengers were crucial to the successful evacuation and survival of so many individuals on board despite horrific conditions. It has been reported that Asiana 214 had a ratio of one flight attendant per 24 passengers when it crashed - two passengers died out of 307 individuals on board. A similar situation occurred in 2005, when all passengers were quickly and safely evacuated from Air France 358, which skidded off the runway and burst into flames. At the time, the Air France flight had a ratio of 1 flight attendant per 35 passengers.

"The heroic actions taken by the Asiana flight attendants during the San Francisco evacuation prove yet again that having an appropriate number of flight attendants on board an aircraft can make a huge difference in the survivability of these types of disasters," said Michel Cournoyer, President of the Air Canada Component of CUPE. "Canadians are proud of our country's above-par aviation safety standards, and I'm sure Air Canada will recognize the importance of maintaining these high standards as we move forward and learn from this unfortunate accident."

Given the growing body of evidence that demonstrates how a high ratio of flight attendants can make a huge difference in the survival of passengers, CUPE, the union that represents Air Canada flight attendants, are formally asking Air Canada to withdraw their request for an exemption from Transport Canada which would allow them to cut the minimum requirement of flight attendants on board Canadian airplanes, from 1:40 passengers to 1:50 seats.

Transport Canada recently granted this regulatory exemption to Westjet, and Air Canada followed suit by asking for the same exemption - the request is currently under review by Denis Lebel, Minister of Transport. Transport Canada is also looking to weaken the actual regulation that determines the ratio of flight attendants to passengers - even though five previous Transport Ministers recommended against the very same change in ratio as it would not maintain an equivalent level of safety.

You can read full text of the open letter to Air Canada here:

July 12, 2013AN OPEN LETTER TO AIR CANADACalin RovinescuPresident & CEOAir Canada CentreP.O. Box 14000, Station AirportDorval, QCH4Y 1H4Dear Mr. Rovinescu,As more details emerge following Asiana flight 214's tragic crash in SanFrancisco on Saturday July 6th, the spotlight is now trained on the rapidactions taken by the flight attendants, which were crucial to the successfulevacuation and survival of so many passengers despite horrific conditions.The world press is unhesitatingly naming these cabin crew members as heroes.We strongly agree.Asiana 214 had a ratio of one flight attendant per 24 passengers when itcrashed - two passengers died out of 307 individuals on board. And we allremember that Air France 358, which crashed in Toronto Pearson on August 2nd2005, successfully evacuated all passengers safely - all 309 individualssurvived - with a ratio of 1 flight attendant per 35 passengers.At Air Canada we have a ratio of 1 flight attendant per 40 passengers - ahigher safety standard than most other countries, and this is somethingwe're proud of. In light of recent airline accidents, we would respectfullyask Air Canada to maintain their high safety standards, and withdraw yourrequest for an exemption to the 1:40 ratio with Transport Canada. Likewise,we would also ask that you reconsider your recently announced reduction incabin crew on board Air Canada's wide-body fleet, which includes B-777s, thesame aircraft involved in the Asiana accident. Now more than ever it'simperative that we maintain an adequate number of trained safety andsecurity professionals on-board Air Canada flights, ready to deal with theunexpected emergencies that can arise at any moment.As we've seen over the past few days, when an emergency happens, everyavailable cabin crew member can - and will - save lives. We ask you to makethe responsible choice and uphold the high safety standards Canadiansexpect, and are proud of.Sincerely,Michel Cournoyer,President of the Air Canada Component of CUPE.

Tria Donaldson
CUPE Media Relations
(613) 915-0763

Source: Marketwire

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