By Allison Lampert
MONTREAL (Reuters) – Canadian flight attendants are demanding pay for time on the ground as well as in-flight, as they have recently endured delays, sometimes for hours, at the country’s busiest airport due to staff shortages, health checks and rising traffic.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said its members are increasingly working for free, as some arriving planes are held up at the gate at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, in some cases up to three hours.
U.S. flight attendants in contract talks with carriers like American Airlines also are seeking to be paid during boarding.
Delta Air Lines has said it will start paying flight attendants when boarding passengers starting June 2.
Demands by cabin crew could put additional cost pressures on airlines recovering from the pandemic-induced slump in traffic.
While Air Canada’s flight attendants are not in contract talks, the Toronto delays are reducing rest times, said Wesley Lesosky, president of CUPE’s airline division.
Lesosky said flight attendants are now worried about the busy summer travel season if delays persist. “As we go into the summer, our concern is cabin temperature and just people becoming unruly.”
CUPE represents about 15,000 flight attendants at nine airlines including Air Canada.
Last week, 7,000 travelers waited longer than 90 minutes on airplanes, Toronto business leaders, including the region’s board of trade, said on Thursday.
“Almost 50% of all international arriving passengers, or 100,000 people, were delayed last week, a 20% increase in the past two weeks,” the groups said in a statement.
Flight attendants’ get their full pay in the air which generally stops 15 minutes after arrival at the gate, Lesosky said.
Air Canada, the country’s largest carrier, was not immediately available for comment.
The office of Canada’s Minister of Transport has said it is working with the industry to reduce delays.
(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago.)