(Ottawa) WestJet, criticized for allowing Pierre Poilievre to speak to passengers on a Quebec-Calgary flight through the plane’s communications system, announced Wednesday that it will review its policy.
In a video circulating online since Monday, we see Mr. Poilievre addressing passengers on a WestJet flight which left Quebec for Calgary on Sunday evening, following the Conservative Party of Canada (PCC) convention.
Mr. Poilievre’s “election campaign” style speech lasts just under a minute and is greeted with laughter and cheers from passengers on the flight.
The union representing WestJet cabin crew demanded an apology from the carrier on Tuesday. Union president Alia Hussain said it was very disappointing that the airline had allowed a politician to use the aircraft’s communications system, usually reserved for flight attendants.
In a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter), Mme Hussain clarified that cabin crew had not been involved in the decision to allow Mr. Poilievre to speak to passengers in this way. She pointed out that the airline’s guidelines stipulate that only crew members can use this communication system.
Mme Hussain demanded an apology from WestJet for blaming crew members in the affair. She claimed that the airline and Mr. Poilievre showed a lack of judgment.
The president and CEO of WestJet, Alexis von Hoensbroech, wrote on
“The party leader had the opportunity to welcome delegates on board (which is not unusual), but this was not a political endorsement (of WestJet) and should not be construed as such, wrote Mr. Von Hoensbroech. We are non-partisan by nature and will review our policy on this matter. »
A message “from your captain”
In the video, Mr. Poilievre, standing at the front of the plane, greets the passengers on the flight using the handset of the communications system usually used by flight attendants.
The Conservative leader uses partisan slogans: “Who is ready for common sense? », he says to the passengers. He continues with a message “from your captain” who informs them of “a bit of turbulence, but that will only last about two years, when you will have a whole new crew and a new pilot in charge of the plane.”
Questioned Tuesday by The Canadian Press, WestJet explained that it had added two flights between Western Canada and Quebec to meet the demand anticipated by the Conservative Congress.
“The flight in question (in the video) was added to our schedule and advertised as a flight serving the CCP convention,” company spokesperson Madison Kruger said in an email.
She also stressed that the use of the communication system by people other than flight attendants was “infrequent” and reserved for “exceptional occasions (…) like this”.
Mme Kruger added that Mr. Poilievre’s remarks were “authorized in advance by WestJet’s operational leadership and up to the final decision of the operations team.”
Ian Lee, associate professor of administration at Carleton University, argues that it is essential that businesses remain non-partisan. “Governments have been regulating the industry for a long time. And for that reason, companies tend to be very, very careful not to be partisan,” he said in an interview.
But he admits that the fact that the flight was full of conservative activists made it a unique situation. However, he expects WestJet to ensure that this situation does not happen again.
“I think most reasonable people will say, ‘I understand why this happened.’ »