Two of Canada's major airline operators have responded to yesterday's news, which declared that the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, has announced changes to the Canadian Aviation Regulations to improve air travel safety for passengers and flight crews.
The new regulations apply to commercial transport services in Canada, which includes both major Canadian airline operators and smaller and regional operators.
WestJet speaks out
WestJet provided the following comment on federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau's flight crew fatigue regulations.
"The safety of our guests and our crew is of utmost importance," said Scott Wilson, WestJet vice president, operations. "We welcome the Minister's announcement outlining the move to new flight and duty time regulations. Utilizing scientific principles on fatigue will provide prevention and mitigation while aligning with international standards and best practices."
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents WestJet pilots, has commended the new regulations put forth by Transport Canada.
"We’ve worked diligently to secure updated science-based, flight- and duty-time regulations which for years has been one of the most important aviation safety issues for flight crews in Canada,” said Capt. Dan Adamus, ALPA Canada president. “While the regulations announced today do not address all of our concerns and recommendations, they are a significant improvement over the current rules and will improve aviation safety."
As outlined in the new regulations, WestJet will work to implement the updated crew fatigue standards over the next 24 months.
Air Canada Pilots Association says new rules "unfair"
While WestJet seemingly stands behind the Minister's decision, the Air Canada Pilots Association has expressed disappointment.
"To say that we are profoundly disappointed is an understatement. These substandard rules leave a two-hour gap between the maximum flight time for Canadian pilots flying at night, compared to what's recommended by NASA's Ames Research Centre, and two and a half hours longer than what U.S. pilots are allowed to fly," said Captain Matt Hogan, chair of the ACPA Master Elected Council. "It is unbelievable that in the face of scientific evidence and international best practice our government expects pilots to fly two hours longer than what NASA says is safe."
The new rules will significantly impact Air Canada pilots flying for Air Canada Rouge, who will be subject to weaker fatigue regulations than on Air Canada's mainline. ACPA had proposed that measures be put in place to protect all pilots flying overseas long-haul flights at night.
"This is the first time in 20 years that Canada has updated its fatigue rules, yet here the government is delaying implementation until 2022 for smaller operators," said Milt Isaacs, CEO of ACPA. "The government's own statistics conclusively prove that it's these very pilots who need the most protection. It's unacceptable that they're forced to wait the longest for the new rules."
Air Canada, meanwhile, has said that it's too early to comment on what these regulations could mean.
"Air Canada has always met or exceeded Transport Canada standards regarding flight duty times and already has a comprehensive fatigue risk management program in place," Isabelle Arthur, director, media relations, told PAX. "We are currently reviewing the new regulations and it is premature to comment further on the government's plan."