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Despite turbulent airline travel this summer, widespread hiring continues for flight attendants

For many Canadians traveling by air this summer, navigating chaotic airports, airline cancellations and delays is daunting, but for flight attendants, it’s their everyday working reality.

Part of their job these days is hearing all about those issues from passengers.

“They’re on the plane with the passengers, so it’s a captive audience. And people want to sell … people want to ask about their connections, their baggage, their pets down below,” said Wesley Lesosky, president of the component of CUPE that represents Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge flight attendants.

“It’s all going to be on the flight attendant because that’s the only person there.”

Despite all the in-flight confrontations — whether they’re about recent air travel issues or COVID-19 regulations like masking — some in the industry say the job still has an allure and there’s still a lot of interest in it.

Hundreds of passengers, seen here earlier this month, continue to line up for security checks at Toronto’s Pearson Airport. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

‘Incredible growth’ in hiring

This weekend, Emirates is holding a cabin crew open day in Toronto to attract new employees.

“Emirates, the world’s largest international airline, is looking for candidates to join its multinational cabin crew team,” the company’s news release reads.

“The airline is looking for individuals who are passionate about delivering simple yet personalized and impeccable hospitality while creating memorable moments for its customers.”

Emirates has been holding cabin crew recruitment days in various cities across Canada, including one in Toronto this weekend. (Submitted by Emirates)

Lesosky says Air Canada has seen “incredible growth” in hiring despite the new difficulties of being a flight attendant.

“it comes with a lot more challenges,” Lesosky acknowledged. But “there’s still the travel perks. There’s still great benefits.”

Christina Ling, who runs a training school called the Flight Attendant Institute, agrees interest in the job isn’t wanting.

Wesley Lesosky, the president of the component of CUPE that represents Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge flight attendants, says the airline has seen ‘incredible growth’ in hiring of flight attendants. (Submitted by Wesley Lesosky)

“Despite the circumstances that are going on in the aviation world right now, there is no shortage of people that still want to pursue this career,” she said.

“Because it is so unique and there’s just this mystique about it and the allure of travel.”

Ling says the sustained interest is largely because of the increased number of available jobs.

“There’s so many open cabin calls…jobs being available, and there’s no shortage of people who are wanting to apply to this career.”

Managing challenges

When it comes to the challenges COVID-19 has created — coupled with recent frequent delays and cancellations — Ling says she’s adapted her flight attendant training to better prepare students for what they’ll face.

“Many challenges that flight attendants face right now are people not wanting to wear their mask,” she said.

“My training will hopefully assist them to be able to deal with that and any kind of scenarios that might pop up in-flight.”

Christina Ling, the CEO and founder of the Flight Institute in Vancouver, says she hopes to train flight attendants to handle all the situations that pop up on when dealing with frustrated passengers. (Submitted by Christina Ling)

Ling, a former flight attendant who comes from a family of airline workers, says what makes the current climate difficult is how little control flight attendants have over the issues passengers are confronted with.

“We don’t make the rules. We have to follow the rules set out by the airlines,” she said.

She says COVID-19 is still creating problems when it comes to staffing, as airlines require a minimum ratio of crew per passenger.

“it’s very frustrating for airline crews because we want to give the best service that we can given the circumstances of what we are presented with at this moment.”

Another challenge, according to Lesosky, is the wages. He says a first-year salary for a flight attendant is still approximately $26,000 a year. He says given that many Canadian flight attendants are based in Toronto or Vancouver, where the cost of living is skyrocketing, that’s not enough.

“That might have been a better salary years ago, but it’s no longer really keeping up with things,” Lesosky said.

“I do see that as a challenge when new hires come on board.”

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