Flight disruptions possible Monday as Flair Airlines issues 72-hour strike notice

Travellers flying on ultra-low cost carrier Flair Airlines could see disruptions starting Monday, with the union representing flight attendants threatening to strike.

CUPE national representative Sanford Lee said the union, which represents 139 flight attendants, issued a 72-hour strike notice on Friday. That notice expires at 12:01 a.m., Monday Dec. 10.

Lee said the union and Flair have been negotiating since March, and while they’ve agreed on a number of areas, there’s one key sticking point.

“The main dispute we have right now is a two-tiered system based on wages and pension that the company has unilaterally implemented,” he said.

“Basically what they are trying to do is for all new hires, they will receive no pension benefits, and in terms of wages, the new hires will be making 30 per cent less than the current employees.”

In an emailed statement, Flair says its wages have been above industry average, something it can’t afford to continue.

“We have historically paid our team of flight attendants 30 per cent higher starting wages than our competitors,” the statement reads.

“We cannot continue to pay this kind of premium, and have requested all new flight attendants start at the same wages as our competitors.”

According to the airline, not all flight attendants agree with the union, and it said that many had contacted management to say they’d continue to work during job action.

The company said those expressions of support led it to believe there would be minimal disruptions on Monday. However, it advised passengers to check their flight status on its website.

Lee said the union won’t go all-in on a strike once job action starts, but plans to ratchet things up in the days to come.

“Our job action is going to be an escalating one,” Lee said, “so at this point on Monday there will be slight disruption to flights, and there will be a slowdown and reduction of services that our flight attendants provide.”

Flair airlines flies out of Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Abbotsford, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto.

In June, the company moved its headquarters from Kelowna to Edmonton, and last year it absorbed NewLeaf travel.

The company operates a small fleet of Boeing 737s, which it hopes to expand to 12 by next spring.

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