Calm Air

Calm Air Pilots
An ATR 42 at Rankin Inlet Airport. (Photo: Capt. Chris Baxter [Calm Air])

Consistently consistent is perhaps the best way to describe the operational nature of Calm Air during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Calm Air pilot group is widely recognized across Canada for having one of the most reliable and pilot-positive work environments. So it was no surprise that despite the challenges in 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) and pilot volunteers continued logging countless hours while maintaining the goal of keeping the needs of the pilot group at the forefront throughout 2021.

“We were very fortunate to have many pilot volunteers working tirelessly, handling the individual needs of our members and bringing their concerns to the MEC,” said Capt. Brendan Potter, the pilot group’s MEC chair. “The Pilot Assistance Committee continued its excellent work on behalf of all Calm Air pilots, and the Scheduling Committee did a lot of heavy lifting while coping with the various iterations of the schedules we had to deal with throughout the year. All of this hard work was done to offer some semblance of normalcy for the workforce and provide consistent professionalism for our clients. For that, I’m eternally thankful.”

While the pilot group and the company were confronted with some difficult situations, their positive working relationship allowed the pilot group to continue utilizing the government’s assistance programs, while the pilots’ willingness to take voluntary leaves of absence and agree to adjusted working conditions, including reduced flying schedules, helped keep the company on solid footing as the ramifications of the pandemic lingered.

As spring turned to summer, Calm Air began to revert to its prepandemic model with an uptick in scheduled flying and a reduction in charter flying, which had increased during the pandemic.

By summer’s end, the company announced to the pilot group that it intended to hire additional pilots. However, the company stressed that it would take a cautious approach heading into 2022 as vaccination rates go up, restrictions are eased, and flying schedules fully normalize to prepandemic levels.

With contract stability in place until 2023, the pilots and the company enter 2022 focused on continuing to work closely with their biggest customer, the government of Nunavut, to resolve any remaining COVID-19-related issues that have lingered as the world attempts to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror.

A pilot group priority is continuing to work within the constraints of any remaining isolation and safety rules designed to safeguard the public from further community spread of the virus, including fully implementing the federal government’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements for federally regulated professions, which includes airline employees.

When the government initially made its vaccination announcement in August, the MEC began ongoing conversations with the company. As the situation evolved, the company indicated it was open to the idea of regular rapid testing as an alternative to mandatory vaccinations. However, as the government deadline approached, the pilot group was informed that this was no longer an acceptable alternative for some of the airline’s customers or the federal government.

Following the announcement, discussions continued regarding how to fairly handle any pilot who had yet to begin the vaccination process or who didn’t intend to be vaccinated by the October 30 deadline. Following the lead of other pilot groups and airlines in Canada, the MEC requested the option to offer voluntary leaves of absence. The company was open to this option, and by November 1 a new letter of agreement was in place.

“Heading into 2022, we’ll continue to collaborate with the company in order to keep our pilots and the communities we fly to safe from the spread of COVID and to put both the pilot group and the airline on a path to increased flying and continued growth,” said Potter.