Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024

Dozens of Air Canada pilots stood outside Calgary International Airport on Saturday in an informational picket line to protest against route cuts into and out of the city.

In August, Air Canada announced it would slash six routes out of Calgary this winter due to an ongoing pilot shortage that the airline said threatens its “overall operational stability.”

Non-stop flights from Calgary to Ottawa, Halifax, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Cancun, and Frankfurt will no longer be in service at the end of October due to ongoing fleet and crew constraints, Air Canada said.

“The industry-wide shortage of regional pilots is expected to have a prolonged impact on Air Canada’s regional network,” said Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick in an email in August.

“This has resulted in resource pressures as Air Canada has been required to operate certain routes with mainline aircraft that are normally served by its main regional partner.”

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Air Canada Pilots Association master elected council chair Charlene Hudy said the route cuts are very concerning because they question the reliability of Canada’s aviation industry and network.

According to Hudy, Air Canada pilots have been fighting for better job security, increased wages and improved aviation safety for the last few weeks as part of the bargaining process. The association’s collective agreement with the airline expires in December.

“We really want to have a reliable, sustainable and competitive aviation network. … When Air Canada announced the route cuts, part of the problem was the pilot shortage,” she told Global News on Saturday.

“Part of that problem can be solved through contract negotiations. … We really want to come to an agreement with (Air Canada) at the table.

“We have to address our concerns considering our career progression, job security, aviation safety and we need to close this growing wage gap between us and our American counterparts.”

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Hudy added that Saturday’s picket line is to educate Calgarians and Canadians about these concerns, as well as to update them about the contract negotiation process.

“Part of our intention is to keep the Canadian public very informed with the state of our contract talks with Air Canada,” she said.

“We don’t want to go on strike. We want to fly our passengers and get them to their destinations. We are committed to our jobs very seriously that way.

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“We are committed to negotiating at the table with Air Canada.”

Air Canada said in a statement that the changes announced back in August are intended to improve overall operations.

It added the airline is also facing supply chain issues affecting the availability of maintenance parts, which is preventing some aircraft from flying.

While the route cuts represent a 4.6 per cent decrease in flights, Air Canada says there will only be a two per cent decrease in passengers because the airline will be using larger aircraft while operating less frequently.

— with files from Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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