North

Canadian North sees higher demand in flights but faces staffing shortage, cancelled flights

More people have been traveling since COVID-19 travel restrictions were eased in August for fully vaccinated travellers and this has meant more bookings for Canadian North Airlines, along with some cancelled flights due to a staff shortage.

Company hasn't been able to recruit enough crew members to keep up with the demand, says official

While Canadian North has increased its flights to respond to the increased demand, it's also had to cancel some of them because it hasn't been able to recruit enough crew members to keep up with the demand, says a company official. (CBC News)

A shortage of staff at Canadian North Airlines has been causing some flight disruptions.

More people have been traveling since COVID-19 travel restrictions were eased in August for fully vaccinated travellers and this has meant more bookings on Canadian North. But the airline has also had to cancel some flights due to a staff shortage.

With more flights, the company couldn't recruit enough crew members to keep up with the demand, said Kevin Kablutsiak, with Canadian North Airlines.

"We weren't able to increase crew numbers as fast because it requires training and can take up to three months to train new crew members to work our flights," he said.

The airline, which provides air service across Inuit Nunangat, the N.W.T. and some locations in the South, has been playing catch up after it had to decrease service when the pandemic started. Around that time, Kablutsiak said the airline had to lay some people off in positions mostly related to "non-essential work areas" of the company.

Company adjusted to reduced demand during pandemic

"At the start of the pandemic, we saw a huge decrease in the number of passengers flying our aircraft. So we have had to make adjustments to the frequency of those flights," he said.

"All essential employees, customer service agents, flight crew, pilots, cargo attendants, all of those remain."

Kablutsiak said in the event of flight cancellations, the "normal practice" is to book the passengers to the next available flight. However, it depends on the rules of the fare, and what caused the cancellation, like whether "it's because of Canadian North crew shortage or whether it's because of weather, there are different rules," he said.

Some of the positions that were let go have since been hired back, and he said there continues to be job openings.

"Not everyone came back because others found other opportunities. But we're always looking for people to join our team," he said.

'We're slowly coming back'

The airline has had to rely on government subsidies since the start of the pandemic, he said, but added "we're slowly coming back." 

"We're not at the point of pre-pandemic, but we're, we're hopeful in the next year or two that we're going to start to [reach] the levels that are more comparable to where we were up before the pandemic."

 And he said, despite the increase in demand in flights lately, those levels of demand still haven't gone back to what they were pre-pandemic either.

In April, the airline confirmed that one of its employees has tested positive for COVID-19 in Iqaluit, the first recorded case for the city.

Kablutsiak said the company is working to meet its current demand.

"We're working hard and quickly to bring the amount of human resources and the crew resources up to par with the higher frequency of flights."

With files from Cindy Alorut

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