Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 6, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Air Canada was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2017), Top Employers for Canadians Over 40 (2017) and Montreal's Top Employers (2017):
- Air Canada retirees can stay connected through the "Pionairs" association, a federally registered non-profit organization that was founded in 1970s -- the association also maintains a pension and benefits committee, which monitors pension developments and advocates for pension protection and reform
- Air Canada employees receive a number of unique financial perks, from duty-free store discounts to personal shipping discounts through Air Canada Cargo to air travel discounts that also include employee's family members
- The company manages the charitable Air Canada Foundation to raise funds and donations for initiatives focused on helping children and youth including the well-known "Dreams Take Flight" program that takes children from across the country to Disney World or Disneyland for one magical day, and the "Wings of Courage" program that recognizes the bravery of children confronted with serious illness
- Air Canada ensures that employees keep their skills sharp with tuition subsidies, an online Air Canada University, extensive in-house training for airline crews at 4 major training facilities across Canada and flight simulation training for pilots which includes state-of-the-art flight simulators as well as online options for training in the comfort of their own home
Air Canada is a high-flying champion
If you want to succeed at Air Canada, make sure you understand these words: "global champion."
You'll hear them a lot, and for good reason. More than ever, Air Canada is a global airline, with an expanding network on nearly every continent. So its standards for everything it does - the services it offers, the processes it follows and, most especially, the people it hires - are built around the idea that all must be world-class.
This means it's crucial for Air Canada to make sure it's supporting its people, so customers have the best experience possible, from call centre to check-in to flight. "There is an increased understanding at every level of the company, from the top down, of what it means to be a frontline employee," says Arielle Meloul-Wechsler, Vice President, Human Resources. "It's becoming more and more tangible as we grow to become what we call a global champion."
In recent years, Air Canada has been expanding its international traffic at a rapid rate. "We are launching great new destinations on a regular and unprecedented basis," says Meloul-Wechsler. The airline markets heavily to U.S. travellers who might want to go from Atlanta, say, to Europe, and use Toronto as an alternative hub to New York's JFK. Vancouver plays the same role for U.S. west coast travellers heading for Asia. In the other direction, the airline competes for U.S.-bound Asians and Europeans.
"Because of all this growth, our reality has changed," says Meloul-Wechsler. "We carry more customers, the check-in agents are busier, our in-flight crews are busier. So we all recognize that to keep up stellar customer service through this growth, it has to be done through mutual support."
The airline has responded with "a lot more listening" to employees, through focus groups, quarterly meetings, direct conversations and online forums, she says. Quick communications are essential. "We make sure that frontline employees are empowered and equipped to answer customer questions right away. It's about everybody rowing in the same direction with real-time information at their fingertips."
Air Canada has also boosted its recognition programs, including the Shine online initiative in which employees can give each other peer-recognition points redeemable for awards ranging from movie tickets to electronics. There are wellness programs, tuition support, and environmental scholarships that employees' children can apply for. And of course, all employees and their immediate famlies are eligible for the longstanding airline perk of access to discounted travel on a standby basis, all over the world.
The airline's strongly people-centred approach is evident in the work of Dotane Harel, Manager, Maintenance Performance and People Development. His job is to support continuous improvement in the critical area of aircraft maintenance - not by directing the work, but by making sure the process is working properly and people have what they need to succeed. "If you don't have what you need, you can't be your best," he notes. "So we put a lot of effort into making sure employees have the tools and the support to truly excel. Our goal is to be world-class in everything we do."
Recently, for example, the airline introduced iPads for its licensed aircraft technicians, as well as pilots and on-board service directors, so they could immediately see the data they needed. "It just makes their work environment easier," Harel says.
Air Canada, says Harel, a 19-year veteran, has done a lot of work in recent years on people management. "We want to attract the best, we want to keep them, and we want to help them develop."
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2017)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 27, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Air Canada was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2017):
- In partnership with imagineNATIVE, Air Canada offers the "imagineNATIVE Shorts Program" as part of their in-flight entertainment programming -- the compilation includes films from well-known Indigenous filmmakers featured in the imagineNATIVE Film Festival
- Air Canada introduced a Women in Aviation speaker series in 2014, which resulted in the creation of three co-development groups on career management, work-life balance and diversity -- each group encourages peer learning and provides a forum for employees to share challenges, ideas, experiences and perspectives
- Air Canada's maintenance division maintains a dedicated committee to provide female employees with a forum to network, explore personal development and receive guidance on establishing individual career goals -- the committee also hosted a Girls in Aviation Day, providing opportunities for girls ages 10 through 17 to visit Air Canada's workplace and learn about careers in aviation
Air Canada's baggage area is no longer a man's world
You're a petite woman - 5 foot 3. You're in your forties and looking for extra work. So what job do you take? Why, Air Canada baggage handler, of course - slinging suitcases of up to 50 pounds and more from conveyer belt to container and back.
That seemingly unlikely scenario is exactly what Amy Ruz did 10 years ago, and what Air Canada is encouraging many other women to do, petite or not. Roles like baggage handling are no longer a male-only domain - every job is wide open at Canada's leading airline.
Ruz, whose title is Station Attendant, says she loves working with the crews "below the wings" - pilots and flight attendants are "above the wings" - and she would happily recommend it to other women.
"On my first day of work, the men looked at me like, what's she going to do? But I earned their respect," she says. "You don't have to have a big body to lift heavy things. They teach you how to lift, and I had a lot of support."
Born in the northern Philippines, Ruz came to Canada in 1990. "I grew up on a farm," she says. "I am used to hard work."
Ruz joined Air Canada in 2007, attracted in part by the flight benefits that all major airlines provide. She has done so well that she now often earns vouchers for First Class tickets that she and her mother use to visit the Philippines.
She has done a number of tasks below the wings. In the beginning, she worked as a connection runner, making sure luggage is transferred to its connecting flight in time. She has put the chocks down in front of the giant aircraft's wheels. For First Class passengers, she has had to deal with the allowance of up to 70 pounds per suitcase - "we are required to have two people to lift those bags."
Now, given her seniority, she works inside the terminal, where the luggage containers arrive from the aircraft, but she is still lifting - and enjoying it. Her co-workers call her Sunshine, "because I always smile." She recently took part in an Air Canada video about diversity, and sees more women baggage handlers appearing in the crews, both young
and older. "It's for people who are serious about their work," she says of her job.
Chantal Dugas, General Manager, Diversity and Linguistic Affairs, says jobs like baggage handling can be an excellent entry level option for women, or men, who want to work with Air Canada. She knows of two people in senior leadership positions who started "on the ramp". From baggage, a person can move into training, supervision and ultimately management. The airline also offers tuition reimbursement for outside professional development.
Air Canada is also working hard to attract more young women into the engineering and technical sides of the airline's work, from aircraft maintenance to piloting, as well as baggage, Dugas says. "This is a long-term investment, because it means talking to girls at an early age, when they are picking their programs in school or thinking about a career."
The airline has put on major events aimed at young women aged 15-22, including an open house at Air Canada's Montreal headquarters which featured problem-solving scenarios that showed girls the chain of roles involved in, say, making sure a non-working in-flight
entertainment system was fixed before take-off.
At a higher level, the airline runs a Middle Management Development Program in which half of the participants in 2016 were women. Air Canada also hired 30 female pilots in 2016, up from 11 in 2015.
"The baseline is, how do we position Air Canada as an employer of choice for everyone," says Dugas. For women who would like to follow in the footsteps of Amy Ruz, the sky's the limit.