Air Transat avoids strike after reaching tentative deal with flight attendant union

Air Transat and the union representing its flight attendants, a unit of The Canadian Union of Public Employees, have reached a tentative agreement subject to a vote to renew their collective agreement, according to a press release the airline released today. 

Details of the agreement will be presented to members and voted on in the coming days, according to Air Transat. The agreement in principle avoids a strike that could have happened as soon as Jan. 3, the tail end of the critical holiday flying season.

In late November, an overwhelming majority of the more than 2,100 flight attendant members had approved a strike mandate if a new agreement with the Montreal-based airline wasn’t reached before the January deadline. 

Air Transat’s previous labour deal expired in October 2022 and the union had been trying to negotiate a new pact with the airline since April. Compensation was a major sticking point among the more than 33 different issues that had been on the table during discussions, Dominic Levasseur, president of the Air Transat Component of CUPE, told CBC News in November when discussions were still happening. 

Levasseur declined to give comment on the agreement in principle amid the ongoing discussions and impending vote. 

“Faced with the dizzying rise in the cost of living and the industry’s favourable prospects, they are ready to take action,” Levasseur told CBC News in November. “More than 50 per cent of them have been forced to take on a second or even a third job to make ends meet, and their starting salary is only $26,577 per year.”

Profit also announced

The news of the agreement in principle also comes at the same time Transat AT Inc. reports a profit in its latest quarter.

On Thursday, the company reported net income of $3.2 million for the three months ending Oct. 31 compared with a loss of $126.2 million in the same period last year.

WATCH | Travel agent says Air Transat drops base fares to avoid commissions: 

GTA travel agent says he feels ‘cheated’ by Air Transat’s lowered base fares

While airlines are required to show customers a clear all-inclusive price for flights, there are no regulations around surcharges. As a result, travel agent Jeff Verman believes Air Transat is shifting costs from its base fares to surcharges to decrease the airline’s commissions to travel agents.

“Driven by a strong execution of its strategic plan, Transat has solidified its positioning in the Canadian leisure travel industry,” Transat CEO Annick Guerard said.

Even as Canadians are more reluctant to splurge on travel amid higher interest rates and inflation, Transat plans to increase flight capacity by 19 per cent next year through more airplanes and better “fleet utilization.” The planes will be put toward greater frequency on some routes, year-round service on others as well as some new destinations, the company said.

In its coming financial year, Transat says it is targeting a profit margin between 7.5 per cent and nine per cent for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, exceeding historical levels.

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