Air Canada Lays Off 5,100+ Flight Attendants

Filed Under: Air Canada, Unions

After the announcement yesterday that Air Canada would be cutting huge swathes of its flight schedule beginning April 1, it was inevitable that there would be some significant layoffs.

The sheer scale, however, is a little mindboggling.

The airline has invoked the force majeure provisions of the flight attendant union’s collective agreement to exercise broad powers to lay off union members.

Because I am a massive legal nerd, I squealed “Force majeure!” when I read that, and scared the hell out of my unsuspecting husband. Force majeure is often referred to as an “act of God”, though the definition is broader than that, and I’m certainly not prepared to pin this pandemic on any particular deity.

In short, force majeure is invoked when there’s an event of such great magnitude that is fundamentally changes the conditions of the contract. The collective agreement actually includes pandemic in its list of examples of what might constitute force majeure, so Air Canada’s on pretty solid legal footing for the clause being applicable.

Anyway, legal tangent aside, the upshot is that 3,600 mainline flight staff and every last one of Rouge’s 1,549 members will be laid off or placed on off-duty status (which is more like a temporary layoff with some benefits retained) by April 1. This represents roughly over half of Air Canada and Rouge flight attendants, and ~15% of the entire Air Canada workforce.

This is obviously a huge blow to Air Canada’s employees, and to the airline itself.

That said, the flight attendants are only one component of Air Canada’s operations, one can only assume that the giant reductions in flights will also render a fair number of pilots and support staff redundant.

Tough times in the aviation industry, as in many other right now. Here’s hoping that it’s not too long before service is restored, and jobs with it.

  1. “Force majeure is often referred to as an “act of God”, though the definition is broader than that, and I’m certainly not prepared to pin this pandemic on any particular deity.”

    Yep – given that there’s zero evidence to support the existence of any deity (extant or otherwise), that’s a very reasonable statement!

  2. As a Canadian who immigrated south 30 years ago, I love the Canada-related content you’ve been posting lately. Keep it up.

  3. honestly, as a Canadian with friends working as AC ground agents, my heart sinks. They will be next, I presume. Canadian economy is much smaller than our neighbor to the south, and the impact will likely be bigger for our companies than theirs, as AC and WS may not tank hits as well as DL or AA. Let’s hope they survive this instead of getting eaten alive by the big 3 down there after everything is over.

  4. Canadian dollar vs US has also tanked in the last month, $0.74 to $0.69. Can’t be good for any Canadian business paying in $.

  5. Qantas and Air Canada have a similar number of employees – 30,000.
    Qantas have laid off 20,000 employees. Air Canada 5,100.
    I would expect many more will be laid off by Air Canada.

  6. Qantas has a similar workforce and they have laided off 25000 employees and flights are down to 10 a day between melbourne to launceston cancelling the majority of domestic.

  7. Economists and financial analysts refer to such a ‘once in a lifetime’ catastrophe as a “Black Swan”

  8. ”What do the compensation packages for the CEO and VPs look like ?”

    According to the Air Canada investors Proxy Circular for 2018:
    (Including Salary + Shares + Options + Incentives + Pension)

    – President and CEO: $11,551,850 CAD (Exercised options in August 2019 for a $52.7M payday)
    – CFO: $4,137,300
    – CCO: $2,260,100
    – VP Operations: $1,767,244
    – Chief Legal Officer: $1,584,200

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