Dozens of Air Canada pilots stood on an information picket line outside Calgary International Airport on Saturday to protest the blockade of routes into and out of the city.
Air Canada announced in August that it would cut six routes out of Calgary this winter, citing a continuing pilot shortage and threatening “overall operational stability.”
Air Canada announced that non-stop flights from Calgary to Ottawa, Halifax, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Cancun and Frankfurt will cease at the end of October due to continued aircraft and crew constraints.
“Due to the industry-wide shortage of regional pilots, we expect there will be a long-term impact on Air Canada’s regional network,” Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said in an August email. ” he said.
“This puts pressure on Air Canada’s resources as it has to fly certain routes with mainline aircraft, typically operated by major regional partners.”
Charlene Hudy of the Airline Pilots Association said the route cuts are deeply concerning because they call into question the reliability of Canada’s aviation industry and aviation network.
Hudy said Air Canada pilots have been fighting for job security, higher wages and improved aviation safety as part of the negotiation process in recent weeks. The association’s collective bargaining agreement with the airline expires in December.
“We really want a reliable, sustainable and competitive airline network. … When Air Canada announced route cuts, part of the problem was a pilot shortage,” she said. he told Global News on Saturday.
“Part of that issue can be resolved through contract negotiations. … We really want to reach an agreement at the table (with Air Canada).
“We must address concerns for career advancement, job security, aviation safety, and close this growing wage gap with the United States.”
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Hudy added that Saturday’s picket line was to educate Calgarians and Canadians about these concerns and update them on the contract negotiation process.
“One of our intentions is to keep Canadians fully informed of the status of contract negotiations with Air Canada,” she said.
“We don’t want to go on strike. We want to fly passengers and get them to their destinations. That’s how we take our jobs seriously.
“We are fully committed to having a table with Air Canada.”
Air Canada said in a statement that the changes announced in August are aimed at improving overall operations.
The airline added that it is also facing supply chain issues that are impacting the availability of maintenance parts, which has prevented some aircraft from flying.
The route reductions will reduce the number of flights by 4.6 per cent, but Air Canada says it will only reduce the number of passengers by 2 per cent as it flies less frequently and uses larger aircraft.
— With files from Amanda Stevenson, The Canadian Press.
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