Senior executives at Air Canada are to return $2 million worth of bonuses and share appreciation units following a public backlash that has seen the airline branded “shameless” and “morally bankrupt”. Air Canada admitted there was “public disappointment” over the payments and that senior executives have voluntarily chosen to return their bonuses.
The current Executive Vice-Presidents and the President and CEO of Air Canada will return their payments, while former chief executive Calin Rovinescu who retired in February will donate his bonus to the charitable Air Canada Foundation.
The payments being returned or donated make up just $2 million of the $10 million total value of the bonus scheme. Most of the money went to middle managers who won’t be expected to return their payments.
In a statement released on Sunday, Air Canada justified the bonuses saying that middle managers and senior executives had agreed to a total cut of $11.5 million in their base salaries at the start of the pandemic.
The bonus scheme was drawn up, however, after Air Canada had laid off tens of thousands of workers and prevented axed employees from accessing Canada’s pandemic wage subsidy scheme.
The airline went on to successfully lobby the Canadian government for an $8 billion rescue package funded by Canadian taxpayers.
“Paying out millions in executive bonuses while they kick their workers to the curb and ask the taxpayer to bail them out isn’t just wrong, it’s morally bankrupt,” slammed Mark Hancock, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
The union represents 10,000 flight attendants at Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge, although many of its members were laid off by management at the start of the pandemic.
“Our employer turned their back on us, they refused to give us the lifeline the government offered through CEWS, and then they lined their own pockets,” commented Wesley Lesosky, who is the local CUPE president at Air Canada. “It’s just shameless.”
A spokesperson for Air Canada said the airline had “worked hard to preserve as many jobs as possible through the pandemic” and that none of the funds from the multi-billion-dollar bailout were used to fund the bonus scheme.
“Every step of the way, management and the Board have acted in the best interests of Air Canada and its stakeholders and have been mindful of their role in mitigating the consequences of the pandemic,” the airline explained in a statement.
Canada’s transport minister Omar Alghabra said the situation was “entirely” avoidable but said Air Canada had “taken a step in the right direction” by paying back some of the bonuses.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.