Pandemic-fuelled rise in passenger bad behaviour taking toll on flight attendants

CALGARY — Canadian flight attendants say they are being subjected to unacceptable levels of abuse from passengers as the COVID-19 pandemic grinds on.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees says flight attendants noticed an increase in bad behaviour over the summer. They say verbal altercations with passengers are common and affect flight attendants’ mental health.

Many of the problems stem from passengers who refuse to obey the federal requirement to wear a face mask on board. Transport Canada data shows reported incidences of passenger non-compliance with the mask mandate spiked over the summer.

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Airlines reported 330 passengers to the regulator for refusing to wear a mask during July and August, more than twice the number of incidents reported in April and May.

But CUPE says the numbers actually downplay the problem. They say only the most serious incidents are reported to the regulator, but flight attendants deal with confrontations and rudeness every day.

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Calgary-based WestJet Airlines says it has issued travel bans against 118 passengers for mask non-compliance since September of last year.

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