Hundreds of Canadian flight attendants are working for free due to staff shortages and “archaic” airline practices, according to the union representing flight attendants in Canada.

CUPE, which represents 15,000 flight attendants in Canada, claims that as air travel returns to pre-pandemic levels and understaffing at security and customs has resulted in lengthy waits, its members are increasingly being compelled to work for free.

Flight attendants are on the statement for many of the flight delays, according to CUPE, completing vital work-related activities to maintain passenger safety while also absorbing passenger displeasure and abuse.

“As flight attendants, we bear the brunt of the anger and frustration and abuse from passengers who are enduring these delays, and to add insult to injury, quite often, we’re working for free while we do it,” president of the Airline Division of CUPE Wesley Lesosky said in a statement.

According to CUPE, outmoded systems of calculating labor hours sometimes result in flight attendants doing vital professional functions without being compensated. Flight attendants are typically paid only for time spent in the air, which means they are not rewarded for delays before to takeoff or after landing.

Lesosky stressed that this is about health and safety, not just money. According to him, flight attendants have minimal rest intervals laid out in their contracts upon arrival, but these are being encroached upon and cut short as their responsibilities conclude later and later due to substantial ground delays.

“Two things are obvious here: first, airlines and federal agencies that run our airports need to hire and properly pay their staff so they can keep our airports moving at a reasonable pace,” said Lesosky.

“Second, the unjustifiable practice of not paying flight attendants for hours and hours of work time must halt immediately,” Lesosky concluded. In no other industry is this acceptable. We don’t understand how we can be forced to labor if we aren’t paid.”

The CUPE demand for on-ground pay comes just weeks after Delta Air Lines announced that flight attendants will be paid for ground services by June 2022.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), which represents other US airlines, has been campaigning for flight attendants to be reimbursed while completing ground responsibilities.


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