Describing the proposed new rules governing flight crew fatigue management as “the single most important issue facing our industry,” the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) is mounting an intensive lobbying campaign on Parliament Hill to spread the word that a one-size, prescriptive set of regulations does not fit all aviation operators.
According to ATAC president John McKenna, the campaign — administered by Hill + Knowlton Strategies — targets Liberal cabinet members who might be able to influence the views of Transport Minister Marc Garneau.
Garneau remains a staunch supporter of the proposed changes to pilot fatigue management regulations, citing “science-based evidence” that he said validates the new rules. But McKenna said the minister’s approach will actually be detrimental to the industry.
“The TSB [Transportation Safety Board of Canada] has never identified fatigue as a contributor to any aviation accident in Canada,” the association president told Skies. “We have one of the safest systems in the world. So is this level of change really needed?”
In conjunction with the current pilot shortage, the new fatigue management regulations are expected to present significant hurdles for every operator. McKenna said the large airlines may need to hire 20 per cent more pilots to meet regulatory requirements. And smaller operators — depending on their size — may need to increase their pilot roster by as much as 50 per cent to do the same amount of work.
“It will threaten the livelihood of some companies,” said McKenna. “If suddenly your labour costs increase by [an average of] 35 per cent, some of the operators won’t be able to operate.”
The increased staffing demands will come at a time when the entire industry is already feeling the pinch of a pilot shortage. Some operators have parked planes and cancelled flights because they lack crews to service them.
Flights to less popular destinations could be in jeopardy, as companies look to streamline their operations to reduce costs.
McKenna, who was scheduled to speak at a Quebec regional aviation summit shortly after talking with Skies, said his contacts there have already told him they are upset about the rising cost of regional travel.
“I told them to talk to Ottawa. Regional service will be harmed by these new regulations. That’s why we’re making this effort to put our point of view in front of those who talk to the [transport] minister. It’s him who must make a move.”
McKenna urged members of Canada’s aviation community to contact their Member of Parliament to voice their concerns.