Flight attendants facing rise in passenger anger, often over mask-wearing: union – National

Disobedience, rudeness and aggressive behavior by passengers are on the increase and have a direct impact on the health and well-being of airline workers, according to unions representing flight attendants at the country’s major airlines.

“Our people go to work and expect to have altercations with our guests on board,” said Chris Rauenbusch, an active cabin attendant at WestJet Airlines Ltd. of Calgary and president of Local 4070 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). “Some people have mental health issues and have to take time off because of these circumstances. This is not what we signed up for as flight attendants for, but unfortunately it has become our new reality.

Read more:

“Stress and anxiety”: the application of the COVID-19 vaccine passport is a concern for some restaurants

“Anytime you approach someone you think it could be the first step in a seriously worsening situation,” said Troy Winters, CUPE National Senior Health and Safety Officer. The union represents more than 15,000 flight attendants from nine different Canadian airlines, including WestJet, Air Canada and Transat.

The story continues under the ad

“It’s not as bad as in the United States, there isn’t as much serious violence, but we certainly have overly belligerent people.”

While reports of increasingly disruptive behavior in recent months on U.S. flights have prompted U.S. lawmakers to crack down on the problem, data suggests the problem is growing in Canada as well. Flight attendants say many of the problems stem from passengers refusing to obey the federal requirement to wear a face mask on board.

According to Transport Canada, cases of passenger non-compliance with the mask mandate increased over the summer. Airlines reported 330 passengers to the regulator for refusing to wear a mask in July and August, more than double the number of incidents reported in April and May.

Read more:

“Don’t blame us”: some restaurants are facing abuse of vaccine passports

The increase can be attributed in part to the increase in passenger numbers as airlines reestablished routes and Canadians resumed travel during the summer. But Winters said he doesn’t believe that’s the only factor at play. As the pandemic drags on, temperaments and anxieties soar, and Winters said it doesn’t help that different provincial governments sent different messages.

“You have different jurisdictions like Alberta and Saskatchewan, in the summer they declared the pandemic over and you don’t have to wear masks anymore. So people who come from those areas say “I don’t need to do this,” he said.

The story continues under the ad

“This is a problem that is not going to go away,” Rauenbusch said. “I predict that when we enter Thanksgiving and Christmas travel season, we will see a little more of what we see in the United States. “

When airlines report an incident of non-compliance to Transport Canada, the regulator has a range of enforcement actions, from warning letters for early violations to monetary penalties of up to $ 5,000. Since September of last year, Transport Canada has fined 36 passengers for failing to wear a mask.

Click to play video:

Vaccine passport policy sparks controversy at coffee shop in Perth, Ontario

Vaccine passport policy sparks controversy at coffee shop in Perth, Ontario

Criminal charges are also possible in the event a passenger uses abusive language, makes verbal or physical threats to employees or other passengers, or is otherwise considered “unruly”. While not all of these cases are related to wearing masks or other public health requirements, documented cases of “unruly” passengers on Canadian planes have been disproportionate during the pandemic. There were 73 cases recorded in 2020, a drop of just 25% from the previous year despite the fact that passenger volume fell by more than 70%.

The story continues under the ad

Flight attendants say official figures actually downplay the gravity of the situation. While Transport Canada is asking airlines to report every case of passengers refusing to wear a mask, Winters said that in reality, crew members are only reporting the most serious cases.

“It’s definitely underrated,” he said. “Anyone you have to ask three times to put their masks back on is not written, because then you would be writing forms from the moment you get off the flight until a few days later.”

Read more:

Canadian Airline Industry Plans Restart “in a Void” Pending Federal Guidance

WestJet said it has issued 118 travel bans against passengers for refusing to wear a mask since the airline introduced its “zero tolerance” policy in September 2020.

“As of January 1, 2021, we have safely transported more than three million guests who do a great job of complying with regulations to keep everyone safe,” WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell said in an email. “The total cases of non-compliance represent less than 0.02% of travelers. “

Neither Air Canada, Transat AT and Porter Airlines Inc. declined to provide company-specific statistics on the wearing of masks or disruptive behavior by passengers.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Source link

About Rochelle Boisvert

Check Also

Broken supply chains threaten ruin at a growing number of small firms, Auto News, ET Auto

One bright side of the distressed drought is that traders who focus on struggling businesses …