- An Air Canada flight attendant of over 20 years described working amid this summer’s travel chaos.
- She said she’s never seen employee morale this low.
- “It just feels like we’re being set up to fail at every turn,” she told Insider.
An Air Canada flight attendant who has worked at the airline for over two decades says she’s never seen employee morale this low.
“I worked through 9/11, I worked through SARS, and this has had to have been the worst,” she told Insider. The flight attendant spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to protect her job, but her employment has been verified by Insider.
For some flight attendants, what was supposed to be a dream job has transformed into a “nightmare” amid this summer’s travel chaos. Crew members at multiple airlines have told Insider that the industry’s entry-level workers are not being paid a living wage, leaving they unable to afford housing or groceries.
As travelers share horror stories ranging from lost luggage and abandoned wheelchair users to parents separated from their children, airline workers trying to help feel they lack adequate resources to do so, the flight attendant said.
“We really do want the best for our passengers and we really are trying to help,” she told Insider, describing an instance where she attempted to assist a mother in tears with an infant and two children after they missed their connecting flight. “It just feels like we’re being set up to fail at every turn. “
“If passengers see us and we’re not smiling or we seem a little bit stressed it’s probably because we’ve just locked ourselves in the lav for a few minutes to have a good cry and be able to come out again,” she continued “The anxiety is really really tough for us as well.”
An Air Canada spokesperson said the airline won’t respond to anonymous comments made by employees, adding that their flight attendants “are professionals and make every effort to manage challenging situations effectively in their respective environments,” and have been “recognized by Skytrax as the best airline staff in North America and in Canada. “
Flight attendants feel underpaid by management and mistreated by passengers, Air Canada employee says
A chasm between Air Canada’s management and frontline workers first formed during the pandemic, the flight attendant said, after the airline announced it would lay off or furlough a total of 20,000 workers.
One year after the layoffs were announced, the airline’s top executives were given $ 10 million in COVID-19 bonuses — around the same time the company received a $ 4.7 million aid package from the federal government.
In response to “public disappointment” that followed reports of the bonuses, Air Canada’s leadership returned the money and stock awards, Reuters reported.
But despite government bailouts and COVID-19 recovery programs, airlines everywhere are struggling to handle this summer’s soaring travel demand.
“I just think it’s poor management on so many fronts and by the government as well,” the flight attendant told Insider. “I don’t know how they didn’t expect that everyone would want to travel after the pandemic.”
Now, the flight attendant says crew members are being underpaid by management and mistreated by passengers who don’t understand the many complicated factors that can cause flight delays.
“The general public is really quite unforgiving and almost unwilling to try to understand how many factors go into play at an airport,” she said. “[Passengers] think’Oh, you get great layovers in Greece’… they don’t know that we fought a war to actually get there. “
The mass delays have exacerbated the risks of unruly passenger incidents, the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents Air Canada flight attendants, told Reuters. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, flight disruptions caused by passengers — which hit an all time high in early 2021 — briefly spiked over Memorial Day weekend when over 4,500 flights were canceled or delayed.
“The overwhelming majority of passengers are respectful,” Air Canada said in a statement. “That said, Air Canada has a zero-tolerance approach towards any kind of aggression in our business, especially towards our employees. We have well developed policies and procedures. in place to handle and support employees as required. “
“Earlier in the summer we took steps to adjust compensation for various employee groups to reflect the current operating environment, including compensation for flight attendants, and during aircraft gate holds,” the statement continued.