Service may suffer if Halifax base closes

Dave Bartlett
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Travel Flight attendant worried about impact of Air Canada cuts on her family and this province

Samantha Bradley had just arrived at her hotel in Calgary earlier this month when she was handed a letter from the front desk clerk.

It was from her employer, Air Canada, telling her she was being laid off and the flight attendant base in Halifax was closing.

Samantha Bradley, originally from Gander, is visiting relatives in St. John's. After more than 11 years as a flight attendant with Air Canada, she and 186 others are facing layoffs. The company plans to shut it's flight attendant base in Halifax, Nov. 1.

Samantha Bradley had just arrived at her hotel in Calgary earlier this month when she was handed a letter from the front desk clerk.

It was from her employer, Air Canada, telling her she was being laid off and the flight attendant base in Halifax was closing.

"I felt quite numb. I didn't know quite what to do, to be honest with you," Bradley says.

Bradley, originally from Gander, has been a flight attendant based in Halifax for more than 11 years.

All her immediate family still lives here in this province.

Twelve former Newfoundlanders will lose their Halifax-based jobs - unless they transfer to Toronto - when the base closes on Nov. 1.

Many of those employees have been in Halifax since Eastern Provincial Airlines moved to Halifax from Gander in the 1980's and shortly thereafter was taken over by Canadian Airlines. That airline was swallowed by Air Canada in early 2000.

Air Canada plans to lay off more than 600 attendants across the country and close bases in Winnipeg as well as Halifax.

Bradley and her husband just bought a house last year. Her husband plans to go back to school in the fall making her the primary bread winner.

She says if the Halifax base can't be saved, she plans to commute to Toronto for the first year to give it a try, but she says many of her colleagues are in limbo right now.

"Do we pick up families and move to Toronto? Do you try to commute? Do you actually take the layoff and hope that, you know, they don't close the base or that one of these days you can come back. It's a lot of questions people are asking themselves," says Bradley.

But Bradley has a bigger concern for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

"The reason why they opened the base (in Halifax) 32 years ago was because of the weather in Atlantic Canada. And as we all know the weather in Atlantic Canada is not going to change," she says.

"I think it's all going to play out when the first snowstorm hits Atlantic Canada (this winter)."

Bradley says with no flight attendant base in the region, delays caused by storms could delay flights from Halifax - including all the flights to this province - a further five to six hours, if they are not cancelled altogether.

Bradley says because air crews can only work for so many hours without taking a legally mandated rest, if a flight is delayed to Halifax, there will be no fresh crew to replace them.

That means a replacement crew would have to be flown to Halifax from Montreal or Toronto before a flight to this province or other provinces in the region can resume.

"I'm concerned about that. I do think, once again, it's going to further alienate this province," says Bradley.

Bradley says Air Canada is blaming the shutdown on fuel prices and a theory that Atlantic Canadians plan to travel less in the coming months and years. But she asks with the oil and gas boom in this province and Nova Scotia, not to mention all the people who regularly commute to Alberta, how can that be?

Not to mention that the base is scheduled to close just before the busy Christmas season.

"Atlantic Canadians will travel to go home at all costs," says Bradley. "I think it's very sad, as a Newfoundlander, that they don't value us. They don't value their customers in Atlantic Canada," she says. "I really wish they would."

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Air Canada, Canadian Airlines

Geographic location: Halifax, Toronto, Gander Atlantic Canada Calgary Winnipeg Newfoundland and Labrador Montreal Nova Scotia Alberta

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Recent comments

  • Here
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    Umm, now if the service and value for the dollar was the same as others then we might take notice. Air Canada has been cutting services, leaving people to find alternative ways to complete travel for years. Now why should anyone be too worried about these job cuts? We do not want to pay more for less.

    I am forced to fly Air Canada at least once a month. You think that I should not be given money back for being placed in a cab to make a connection 3 hours away, or better yet have Air Canada pay wages lost when they cancel return flights and bump people to flights a week after the paid in advance return date?

    Come on now. If West Jet can start up new air lines and routes, it just goes to show that Air Canada workers are bleeding us all with out of scope wages that we wind up paying for with increased air fares and new extra bag charges just to name a few.

    Take a wage cut, pay for your own accomidation and meals, then you have something to cry about. People need to look at the long term, not the me me me outlook that we all have held for years.

  • Maggie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    In response to Here We Go from St. John's. Did you know that AC flight attendants have already taken a 13 percent wage cut and recinded numurous benefits, including vacation time. They have also given up many provisions to their working conditions in an effort to help the company sustain viability.

    And please explain to me why it is okay for the executives at AC to line their pockets with miliions in bonuses, while their front line employees bare the burden of rising fuel costs? Perhaps some trimming at the executive level could help ease the pain of operating costs.

    The government and in turn the media, are constantly bombarding us with the need to draw workers back East. But with the attractive salaries being paid to the west of us, it is a hard sell. We should not let these 187 positions go. These people WANT to be here. This is their home and they wish to stay, chosing to live, raise families and pay taxes here.

  • Here
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    Umm, now if the service and value for the dollar was the same as others then we might take notice. Air Canada has been cutting services, leaving people to find alternative ways to complete travel for years. Now why should anyone be too worried about these job cuts? We do not want to pay more for less.

    I am forced to fly Air Canada at least once a month. You think that I should not be given money back for being placed in a cab to make a connection 3 hours away, or better yet have Air Canada pay wages lost when they cancel return flights and bump people to flights a week after the paid in advance return date?

    Come on now. If West Jet can start up new air lines and routes, it just goes to show that Air Canada workers are bleeding us all with out of scope wages that we wind up paying for with increased air fares and new extra bag charges just to name a few.

    Take a wage cut, pay for your own accomidation and meals, then you have something to cry about. People need to look at the long term, not the me me me outlook that we all have held for years.

  • Maggie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    In response to Here We Go from St. John's. Did you know that AC flight attendants have already taken a 13 percent wage cut and recinded numurous benefits, including vacation time. They have also given up many provisions to their working conditions in an effort to help the company sustain viability.

    And please explain to me why it is okay for the executives at AC to line their pockets with miliions in bonuses, while their front line employees bare the burden of rising fuel costs? Perhaps some trimming at the executive level could help ease the pain of operating costs.

    The government and in turn the media, are constantly bombarding us with the need to draw workers back East. But with the attractive salaries being paid to the west of us, it is a hard sell. We should not let these 187 positions go. These people WANT to be here. This is their home and they wish to stay, chosing to live, raise families and pay taxes here.