Front-line airline workers in Halifax bear the brunt of customer anger

·2 min read
Most frustration for air travellers in Halifax is from customers who have connecting flights through Montreal or Toronto. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)
Most frustration for air travellers in Halifax is from customers who have connecting flights through Montreal or Toronto. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images - image credit)

Front-line airline workers at Halifax Stanfield International Airport are facing higher levels of stress due to customer frustration about flight cancellations and long delays at airports across the country.

"We hear repeatedly from customers that we are ruining their vacation plans and that takes a toll on us," Cheryl Robinson, an Air Canada customer service specialist said. " A lot of the times the things that are happening are out of our control, we're just the messenger."

Robinson says that the majority of frustration stems from travelers who have connecting flights at Toronto Pearson International Airport or Pierre Trudeau International Airport in Montreal because those airports have seen the most turmoil this summer. Stanfield hasn't seen the same level of delays and cancellations.

"We haven't seen a ton of cancellations here at [the] Halifax airport, but it's the outbound that are traveling onward from Montreal or Toronto where the big issues are," Robinson said.

"Being the face of the company a lot of our workers are bearing the brunt of that anger and frustration."

According to Air Canada's website, it is reducing the frequency of direct daily flights between Halifax and Montreal from four to three starting Aug. 3 as a result of strains on the aviation industry from COVID-19 and staff shortages.

WestJet has made similar cancellations, but couldn't accommodate an interview request.

Jonathan Castell/CBC
Jonathan Castell/CBC

Staffing shortages are playing a role in cancelled flights and long delays in Canada, leading other workers to quit under the heavy load, says Robinson.

"The abuse at times can be too much and people can move on to be paid equally and not have to deal with all the stuff attached to the airline industry," Robinson said.

Yet Robinson says the majority of travelers have been appreciative of workers.

 Showing gratitude

When Sheree Fitch's husband, Gilles Plante, left for Quebec, there weren't huge delays at Pierre Trudeau International Airport, but she was still worried because he has Alzheimer's and was travelling alone.

Fitch said it was difficult not traveling with her husband, but two Air Canada workers made the tough situation easier so she later tweeted at Air Canada to show her appreciation.

"I was so impressed with their compassion, kindness and competency," Fitch said. "I wanted Air Canada to be aware of how they helped us."

While Plante was away, the airport chaos began in Montreal causing Fitch to become increasingly nervous about Plante's return home.

Fitch was relieved to see her husband walk through the gates accompanied by an employee she knows only as Roxanne. She wasn't expecting the reunion to be special for the Air Canada worker, too.

"She told me you made my day, my week, my month," Fitch said. "It made me realize how much they are going through."

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