Air Canada to lay off over 5K flight attendants as coronavirus halts travel: union

The union representing Air Canada‘s flight attendants says more than 5,000 members will be temporarily laid off as the airline severely limits its travel network over the coronavirus pandemic.

The layoffs, which the Air Canada Component of CUPE says will take effect over the next 48 hours, will include roughly 3,600 Air Canada members and all 1,549 Air Canada Rouge members, according to a statement posted to the union’s website Thursday.

“This is unprecedented, and not something any of us want to go through,” the union’s top staff said in the joint statement. “The reality is real, and we are working around the clock ensuring you are represented.”

Air Canada announced Wednesday it would “gradually suspend” the majority of its international flights by the end of March as countries around the world, including Canada, close their borders to international travellers to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The airline will only serve 13 U.S. airports through at least the month of April, while six international destinations will be maintained as connections to bring Canadian citizens back home to Canada. Domestic travel will also be reduced from 62 airports being served to 40.

According to CUPE, those reductions — which the union says wipes out at least 80 per cent of Air Canada’s network — means Air Canada Rouge will be grounded entirely, with “zero flying hours for the month of April 2020.”

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