In a rare public disagreement among crew members, the captain of Air Canada 139, an Airbus A320, and the three flight attendants on duty on June 8, argued about odd odors emanating from the aircraft ventilation system. The cabin crew thought they represented an unsafe condition; the captain did not. In the end, the flight attendants walked off the flight at the gate, leaving the hapless passengers sitting on the aircraft at Ottawa International Airport (CYOW) wondering whether to trust the captain or walk off the aircraft with the flight attendants. The aircraft sat on the ground for the next three hours, during which the captain tried convincing passengers there was no safety issue, while the airline searched for reserve flight attendants to crew the trip. One of the initial group of flight attendants did return to the flight, which eventually departed for Vancouver. A Vancouver-based Globe and Mail reporter, Gary Mason, was among the passengers and tweeted events as they occurred.
Jeff Taylor, president of the Air Canada Component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing the flight attendants, told AIN, “It is important to remember that flight attendants are highly trained safety professionals who treat the safety of hundreds of passengers as their first priority. Every day they use their expertise to assess and deal with risks so that everyone is safe. A flight attendant has a right and a duty to refuse unsafe work. For flight attendants, refusing dangerous work may not just be about protecting themselves. It can also be about protecting hundreds of others involved in the flight. Flight attendants rarely enact their right to refuse unsafe work, and every time they do we have to treat the matter seriously because the safety of hundreds of people can be involved.” Neither Air Canada nor the Air Canada Pilots Association responded to AIN’s questions about the incident.