Canadians reject government attack on airline passenger safety

96 per cent support current flight attendant requirements; support strong even among Conservatives, says poll

Ottawa, Ontario – The vast majority of Canadians, including Conservative supporters, say fewer flight attendants means lower safety and more risk for airline passengers, according to a poll released today by CUPE’s Airline Division.

The recent survey conducted by Environics shows that 96 per cent of Canadians believe that in an emergency it is important to have a sufficient number of trained flight attendants on board to insure passenger safety. A strong majority of Conservative supporters (74 per cent) also agree that it’s very important to have enough flight attendants on hand to assist all passengers when an evacuation, fire, hijacking or medical emergency occurs.

“Canadians realize that as safety professionals, flight attendants are the first line of defence when things go wrong on an aircraft. The Conservative government must listen to Canadians, including thier own supporters, and maintain the proven safety ratio of one flight attendant for every 40 passengers,” said CUPE Airline Division President, Michel Cournoyer.

The poll also found that 74 per cent of Canadians, including 68 per cent of Conservative supporters, say the federal government’s decision to reduce the number of flight attendants will have a negative impact on passenger safety.

When asked what should be the federal government’s airline policy priority, respondents’ answer is also crystal clear – safety first. For 64 per cent of Canadians and 61 per cent of Conservative supporters, making airline travel as safe as possible came well ahead of helping airlines cut costs by reducing the number of flight attendants.

“Prime Minister Harper, the airlines can make profits on their own. It is time for you to realize that when their safety is at stake, Canadians want to have the government on their side,” said CUPE National President, Paul Moist.

So far, Transport Canada has granted exemptions to the one to 40 ratio to Sunwing and Westjet. The federal government also announced its intention to change the existing regulation, that would allow other Canadian airlines to switch to a ratio of one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats.

CUPE’s Airline Division delivered a petition of 13,000 signatures to Federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt on November 29 asking the federal governement to apply the one to 40 ratio to all Canadian airlines. CUPE is also legally challenging the Conservative government’s granting of exemptions to airlines.

Environics was commissioned by CUPE to survey 1,003 adults between November 14 and 20, 2013. The results of the telephone survey are considered accurate to within 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

CUPE represents more than 10,000 flight attendants employed by Air Canada, Air Transat, Calm Air, Canadian North, Canjet, Cathay Pacific, First Air and Sunwing.
Additional information:

Philippe Gagnon
Communications Officer, CUPE