Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

December 17, 2013 11:00 ET

Sunwing's failed evacuation tests show that ratio of one flight attendant to 50 passenger seats compromises safety

Despite three failures, Transport Canada allows Sunwing to operate with fewer flight attendants

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Dec. 17, 2013) - Documents filed in court today by the Canadian Union of Public Employees show Sunwing failed three evacuation tests the company needed to pass before applying the exemption of one flight attendant to 50 passenger seats on its flights.

"Despite repeated failures, and instead of recognizing that the ratio of one to 50 is less safe for passengers, Transport Canada decided to change the normal procedures allowing Sunwing to pass the test on a fourth attempt. It's downright irresponsible - in an actual emergency, the passengers whose lives are at stake have only one chance," said Paul Moist, national president of CUPE. His comments were echoed by Michel Cournoyer, president of CUPE Airline Division.

The tests were conducted by Sunwing on November 22 and 27, 2013. In three attempts, the evacuation of the aircraft was not accomplished in the required time. Transport Canada's Inspector, Luc Mayne, then decided that a mandatory oral safety instruction during evacuations need not be given, and a fourth test was successful.

Josh Walsh, a health and safety representative for CUPE, was present during the tests. In his affidavit filed with the Federal Court, he said he shared his concerns with Inspector Mayne about the last minute modification to the standard procedure. Inspector Mayne simply replied: "I know what I'm doing".

The exemption allowing one flight attendant to 50 passenger seats has been in effect on Sunwing's flights since December 1, 2013.

In light of Transport Canada's manipulation of the testing procedures, and the dangers that might result for the passengers, CUPE has asked the Federal Court for a judicial review of the decision allowing Sunwing to apply the ratio of one flight attendant to 50 passenger seats. CUPE also asked the Court to suspend Sunwing's Transport Canada exemption from the current rule of one flight attendant to 40 passengers' requirement.

CUPE represents 1,000 flight attendants at Sunwing. CUPE represents over 10,000 flight attendants employed by Air Canada, Air Transat, Calm Air, Canadian North, Canjet, Cathay Pacific, First Air and Sunwing.

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