CanJet Airlines to lay off most of its staff, as European routes dropped

CanJet Airlines will lay off 47 pilots and 68 permanent and seasonal flight attendants by May, after cancelling its European routes, CBC News has learned.

Halifax-based charter airline will examine all options, including return to scheduled flights

CanJet Airlines is laying off 47 pilots and 68 permanent and seasonal flight attendants. (CanJet Airlines)

CanJet Airlines will lay off 47 pilots and 68 permanent and seasonal flight attendants by May, after canceling its European routes, CBC News has learned.

The cuts total more than 70 per cent of the charter airline's flying staff. CanJet currently employs about 62 pilots and 100 flight attendants.

The airline has ceased its Europe operations, because the venture "is simply not profitable," company president Stephen Rowe said in an email to CBC News

"It is disappointing we have to realign our employee group today to a much smaller group," he said.

CanJet, a subsidiary of Halifax-based IMP Group, launched its own vacation package deals last year. It also provides charter flights on behalf of Transat Holidays, but that partnership will soon come to an end, resulting in more lost business.

Rowe said the company is exploring its options and that "everything is on the table," including possibly adding scheduled flights in Canada and internationally.

Constant layoffs

CanJet has been plagued over the past few years by shrinking business and layoffs.

This past winter, it cancelled 40 per cent of its planned flights and laid off 21 pilots. Rowe said the company had to make the cuts because it overestimated sales for its first winter season offering vacation packages.

The union representing the airline's pilots is suggesting CanJet Vacations could also be doomed.

In a memo to members obtained by CBC News, the Air Line Pilots Association​ wrote: "We have been advised that the fate of CanJet Vacations is not entirely clear, however, from our perspective it is. It appears that the desire to continue past this summer has unfortunately been lost after only nine months of selling."

But Rowe maintained that CanJet Vacations could live on, "as we had as we had great support during our first year of operation." But he also admitted that "pricing in this business segment is a challenge."

Feelings of deception

The union memo also criticized how CanJet is managing the cuts.

"It is unfortunate that we have been put in this situation," the memo said, adding that the union shares members' "feelings of being deceived and disrespected.

"It is unfortunate that we sit here now with layoff notices given after our own president issued a memo in the past telling us not to worry, not to go anywhere," said the memo.

Rowe sent a letter to employees on April 7, obtained by CBC News.

CanJet's president told staff the airline will continue to focus on "profitable flying" and additional opportunities.

He also said CanJet's Europe flights "fell short of our financial requirements" and that the airline was decreasing the number of aircraft it would be staffing with crews.

The letter didn't mention layoffs, however. Instead, Rowe talked about realigning employee resources and said, "This year will be a transformational year for the organization."

The union memo also criticized CanJet's timing of the layoff announcement, saying some pilots will have to work with the additional stress of knowing they will soon be losing their jobs.

It said this will result in fatigue and illness.

"It is obvious that decisions are being made based on dollar signs rather than good judgment."

About the Author

Sophia Harris

Business reporter

Sophia Harris has worked as a CBC video journalist across the country, covering everything from the start of the annual lobster fishery in Yarmouth, N.S., to farming in Saskatchewan. She now has found a good home at the business unit in Toronto. Contact: sophia.harris@cbc.ca

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