Air Canada swiftly reverses poppy stand after outcry from staff, union

Air Canada has reversed an edict advising flight attendants against wearing poppies on their uniforms, hours after a company vice-president issued it.

Vice-president apologizes for memo ordering flight attendants not to wear Remembrance Day symbol

Flight attendants working for Air Canada were originally told not to wear poppies while working on flights, according to their union. Air Canada quickly reversed the decision. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Air Canada has reversed an edict advising flight attendants against wearing poppies on their uniforms, hours after a company vice-president issued it.

On Monday morning Renée Smith-Valade, vice-president of in-flight service for Air Canada, informed all employees the company had "chosen to show our deep respect and honour for our veterans with an onboard announcement on all flights worldwide."

However Smith-Valade's note went on to say Air Canada "strongly encourage(d) anyone who wants to wear a poppy to observe and respect Remembrance Day to do so when not in uniform."

Renée Smith-Valade is the Air Canada's vice-president of in-flight service. Her original memo on Monday raised the ire of flight attendants and their union. (Air Canada)

Within hours the airline apparently had a change of heart, according to a second note posted to the company's internal communication system.

"The decision has indeed been reconsidered and the wearing of poppies is supported," Smith-Valade wrote.

"My apologies for the angst this has caused for some. For those who choose to do so please wear your poppies while in uniform with pride."

Original order 'beyond absurd', union says

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 6,500 flight attendants at Air Canada and 700 at Air Canada Rouge, confirmed its workers received the note and said it came as a "complete surprise".

"Frankly we were shocked and completely unaware of this," said Michel Cournoyer, a union spokesman.

"[Employees] think that this decision was beyond absurd and think the flight attendants should absolutely be allowed to wear the poppies."

Cournoyer said the union and its members are pleased by the company's reversal. He noted that in 2008, Air Canada painted poppies on their planes' fuselage "because aviation is so closely tied to military history."

Air Canada statement

In a statement to CBC News early Monday afternoon, Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick wrote: "While we do have regulations on non-service pins to maintain a consistent uniform look, we have clarified for our in-flight crews that they can wear a poppy in uniform and do so proudly.

"Our uniform policy has been revised with this clarification to avoid any confusion in the future. Many Air Canada employees have ties with the military and we honour the contribution and sacrifice of serving members of the Armed Forces as well as of our veterans.

"We have apologized to our in-flight crews for any confusion surrounding this issue."