Air Canada to temporarily lay off more than 5,100 employees

The airline is planning to suspend majority of its international and US trans-border flights by March 31 due to coronavirus

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 16, 2019 a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner of Air Canada sits at gate at Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL). Canadians paid 1.9 percent more for goods and services in August than a year earlier, with higher air fares partly offset by lower gasoline prices, the government statistical agency said on September 18, 2019. After reaching a low of 1.4 percent in January, inflation jumped to 1.9 percent and held relatively steady for six months. In July it hit 2.0 percent.Although the economy has been strong by most macro economic indicators, Canadians have voiced growing concerns about affordability going into October national elections pitting Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seeking a second term, against Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
 / AFP / Daniel SLIM

Air Canada will temporarily lay off more than 5,100 employees as it attempts to check the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the union representing the Canadian airline's flight attendants said on Friday.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said it was "deeply saddened" to learn that the airline would temporarily lay off about 3,600 of its members at Air Canada mainline and all 1,549 of its members at Air Canada Rouge.

CUPE, which represents about 10,000 flight attendants at Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge, said the layoffs were effective until April 30 at the earliest.

Air Canada has initiated discussions with its unions to begin placing employees on temporary, off-duty status, the company said on Friday.

"Employees would be returned to active duty status when we ramp up our network schedule as conditions allow," the company said.

Earlier this week, Air Canada said it would gradually suspend the majority of its international and US trans-border flights by March 31 in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Airline industry executives around the globe have called for state support as travel demand collapses at an unprecedented rate and governments impose restrictions due to the pandemic.

Air Canada has "no choice" but to cut staff, calling the move "difficult but necessary", CBC News, which first reported the news, quoted the airline's vice president of in-flight service as saying.

The highly contagious coronavirus has infected more than 270,000 people across the world and the death toll now exceeds 10,000.