Bag handlers in rush to get planes out on time, union says after video outrage
Published Monday, April 21, 2014 11:42AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 21, 2014 8:04PM EDT
Air Canada says two employees have been suspended and may be fired, pending the outcome of an investigation, after they were caught on camera tossing passengers' luggage from a stairway to a bin several metres below.
In an email statement to CTV News, the airline's spokesperson Isabelle Arthur said the two suspended employees have been "advised that their employment will be terminated" pending the outcome of the company’s probe into the matter.
"Their actions clearly contravened our standard baggage-handling procedures which require gate-checked bags to be hand-carried to the ramp," Arthur said on Monday.
She said that in the wake of the now-viral video, the airline would like to apologize for the "totally unacceptable mishandling of our passengers' baggage" captured on film.
That video, which shows a baggage-handler dropping luggage from a stairway into a bin, was posted to YouTube last Thursday. By Monday morning, it had been viewed more than one million times.
In response to the incident, the union representing the two employees said baggage handlers are often under intense pressure from management to move items as quickly as possible.
Bill Trbovich, a spokesperson for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said that when employees are asked to stow carry-on pieces with a plane’s checked luggage, they must do so not only in a safe, but timely manner so that the flight isn’t delayed.
"Management is pushing them to get the planes out on time," he told The Canadian Press on Monday. He said that the stairways that baggage handlers use are steep, and it would be dangerous to hurry down them.
In the video shot by Dwayne Stewart, about a dozen bags are seen being dropped from the stairway. Stewart was a passenger on flight AC137 from Toronto to Vancouver, and filmed the video from inside the plane.
The bags in the video were carry-on pieces that couldn't fit into the plane's overhead compartments, so passengers were told their bags would need to be stored with the rest of the checked luggage.
Trbovich said such incidents could be avoided in the future if airlines enforce their own carry-on restrictions. He added that employees today face increase scrutiny as a result of devices that are capable of taking pictures and videos.
"You’re constantly looking over your shoulder," he said.
"You go about your business trying to do your job and you’ve got to be cognizant of where you don’t hurt yourself or fall down, and to worry about whether somebody’s taking your picture through an airplane window."
Air Canada had issued an earlier apology over the weekend. In that statement, the airline said that the actions of the two workers were "not representative of the vast majority of our employees who work hard every day to take care of our customers."
With files from CTV News Marlene Leung and The Canadian Press