An Air Transat A321neoLR at Montréal Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport. Photo: Capt. Bradley Small (Air Transat)
For the Air Transat pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC), the focus of 2021 was ensuring that the pilot group survived the pandemic. In 2022, the focus shifted to reintroducing the pilots onto the flight deck and working with management to ensure the airline’s long-term viability. With the Canadian aviation industry ramping back up and Air Transat’s increased loads, it was clear that the airline would need to rehire all of the remaining pilots who were laid off.
In the spring, management met with MEC leaders to discuss transitioning from being a strictly vacation carrier to a scheduled-service airline, outline its strategic plan, and introduce Marc-Philippe Lumpé, its new COO, who’d be leading the change. Lumpé was replacing Jean-François Lemay, who’d helmed Air Transat since 2013.
One of Lumpé’s priorities was securing the support of the pilot group. He met with MEC leaders on multiple occasions to establish a new plan for engaging with the MEC moving forward and to build rapport with the pilots who work under a contract ratified in 2015. He also wanted to address the MEC’s concerns regarding the exorbitant cost of long-term disability insurance premiums the pilots were paying.
Air Transat reached a new deal with the MEC in June to extend the pilot group’s collective agreement for an additional 33 months. Hourly pay rates for all pilots were increased by 3 percent effective May 1. And on May 1, 2023, pay rates will rise by another 3 percent. In the final year of the contract, rates will increase by an additional 2.5 percent effective May 1, 2024, for a total increase, including the compounding of rates, to 8.7 percent by the third year.
In July, through the Canadian government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, Air Transat received $100 million in loans from the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility to assist the airline in its continued recovery from the effects of the pandemic. The funds helped ensure that operations could continue, despite the company’s capital operating challenges.
New MEC officers were elected in August to serve two-year terms. Capt. Bradley Small was elected chair, Capt. Philippe Chartrand vice chair, and F/O Antoine Brebant secretary-treasurer.
The Canadian government dropped all remaining COVID restrictions regarding travel to and within Canada on September 30. “With these restrictions removed, we’re optimistic that travel will continue to increase and return to prepandemic levels,” said Small.
On October 1, Air Transat launched its new branding campaign “Travel Moves Us,” which builds on the airline’s more than 35 years of experience primarily in southern vacation packages and transatlantic flights as it transitions to becoming a scheduled-service carrier.
“The company is currently hiring additional pilots and is on track to hire enough pilots over the next two years to compensate for resignations and the increased number of aircraft in the fleet,” Small remarked. In the fall, Air Transat began hiring 10 pilots per month and expects to increase that number to 20 pilots per month beginning in 2023.
“With the new management restructuring and additional financing, Air Transat’s short- and long-term viability is looking brighter,” observed Small. “Heading into 2023, the MEC’s top priorities will be negotiating new letters of understanding to address quality of life, compensation, and other issues important to the pilot group.”