TORONTO -- Sunwing will become the latest airline to temporarily lay off flight staff as it suspends operations due to the grounding of flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) confirmed to that 1,063 flight attendants will be laid off next week.

Barret Armann, president of the Sunwing pilots union, Unifor Local 7378, told that 470 pilots will also be without work.

“They’ve literally just shuttered to survive and we’ve been pushing the government, probably for at least the past 10 days now since this has happened, for support for us, obviously Air Canada, and all the other ones that are literally just hacking their employees into nothing,” he said.

“It’s gruesome, I got pilots calling me all day asking me how they’re going to pay mortgages and put food on their table.”

Sunwing office staff are also affected, Armann added.

“They do say that it’s a short-term layoff, but the problem with that is, is it really?” he said.

“If we’re not flying and there’s no support for these airlines, they will not last. They have huge bills to pay, lease payments, buildings…you can’t sustain that unless you have billions in cash.”

Armann said his union continued to push the government for financial support to help the airline industry.

“Nobody is blaming the airline, we want it to survive, it’s a great place to work, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else,” he said.

“The only way they can survive is by doing what they did, so the government needs to step in and give assistance. We want the companies bailed out so that we have a career to come back to.”

Armann referenced the federal government’s announcement Friday that it is boosting the wage subsidy for small- and medium-sized businesses to 75 per cent. 

“We will be suspending operations following Monday’s flights,” Sunwing told in an email.

“This was a difficult decision that prioritizes the interests of our customers, our employees and the public health of the broader communities we serve. The circumstances we face are dire and we must take action to ensure the long-term viability of our business.”

The company added that its executive team has taken a 50 per cent pay cut and that once it has confirmation of a “return to service date, we intend to recall all employees.”

Sunwing said it has been speaking daily with senior officials in the federal government regarding its request for financial support.

“These discussions are ongoing and taking place in addition to the discussions we are having with the Province of Ontario, Quebec and City of Toronto regarding the impacts of COVID-19 to our business,” the company said.

It stated that it has never sought government support before, but added that “these are exceptional circumstances where we are fighting for the survival of this vitally important industry.”

Meanwhile, Air Canada's pilot union says up to 600 of its members will go on unpaid leave in the coming months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And Air Transat has temporarily laid off about 70 per cent of its workforce in Canada, about 3,600 people, as it too looks to stop flying on April 1.