Air Canada Pilots Go On Strike

Talks broke down Tuesday night between Air Canada and its 2,100 pilots, forcing the airline to cancel all of its flights worldwide.

"Flights are canceled until we are able to negotiate a settlement and we can get the pilots back to work," said Priscille LeBlanc, spokeswoman for Air Canada.

LeBlanc said there are no talks scheduled at this moment, and the airline has negotiated agreements with a number of carriers to have Air Canada tickets accepted at face value.

The strike is the first in the Air Canada Pilots Association's 61 year history.

"Our management has failed to address our concerns and we are angered," association chairman Jean-Marc Belanger said. "We are angry, dismayed and displeased that we are forced into this situation."

Belanger said the union had come down considerably from its original wage demands. He said the union originally wanted a 20 percent raise over two years and had come down to 12 percent.

Air Canada carries approximately 60,000 passengers daily.

The airline had made arrangements with 15 other air carriers around the world to take its passengers in the event of a strike.

However, many airlines were already booked solid with late-summer travelers.

Luigi Vallero of Turin, Italy, arrived at the Vancouver airport for a flight to Montreal where he planned to continue his Canadian vacation.

"When strikes go on, you never know how it ends up," he said. "So let's see what it will be. I was on vacation so all my plans will be blown up anyway," he said.

In July, Air Canada pilots who have been without a contract since April 1 voted 97 percent in favor of a strike in an attempt to get substantial pay increases and improved working conditions.

The union's 2,100 pilots made wage and scheduling concessions during the airline's rough ride in the early 1990s. But last year Air Canada was able to turn around and make a profit.

Pilots earn between $20,500 and $128,200 a year. On average, an Air Canada pilot makes $64,100 a year. The association said its members make 30 percent to 50 percent less than the pay of comparable pilots in the United States and Europe.

As for working conditions, the pilots wanted to reduce the hours spent flying. The union said Air Canada pilots average 78 to 85 hours of flying time per month. The industry average is 75 to 78 hours.

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