Many Canadian flight attendants say the government’s decision not to ease face mask rules on airplanes makes them feel well protected and they want airlines to continue providing masks and other personal protective equipment once mask mandates are finally lifted.
The views of thousands of flight attendants surveyed by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) puts them at odds with colleagues south of the border who were quick to rip off their masks when a federal mask mandate was challenged in April.
Transport Canada has taken a far more cautious approach to easing pandemic restrictions and this approach is still very evident onboard flights and at Canada’s borders.
Face masks remain mandatory for all crew and passengers aged over six years old on all domestic flights and international flights to and from Canada, while unvaccinated visitors still aren’t allowed to freely enter Canada for a vacation.
Unvaccinated Canadians are allowed to enter the country from abroad but must undergo pre-departure, post-arrival and Day-8 testing, and quarantine for two weeks.
A vaccine mandate has been ‘suspended’ for domestic flights but Transport Canada has shown little interest in scrapping a face mask mandate.
Still, the CUPE union fears that when that time comes, airlines will quickly try to revert to pre-pandemic policies that saw flight attendants banned from wearing face masks because they didn’t form part of the uniform.
Troy Winters, CUPE National health and safety officer fears airlines “will point to the practices at other carriers and say they need to race to return to normal for the sake of operations or corporate image.”
“But the views of the frontline workers in the airline sector are now very clear: most workers want to keep the ability to wear protective equipment when they feel their health is at risk,” Winters continued.
CUPE represents 15,000 Canadian flight attendants working at 10 airlines including Air Canada, Air Transat, WestJet, and Sunwing.
“There are thousands of workers that expect their employers to protect them, and they expect the regulators to ensure companies are complying with the health and safety laws.”
Winters is calling on Transport Canada to force airlines to continue providing masks long after any mandate is lifted.
Although there’s no suggestion that any of these airlines will stop providing personal protective equipment to workers, the union complains that it has been “routinely caught off guard by unexpected changes to COVID-19 safety procedures and requirements”.
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.