Air Canada Delay Bad For Passengers, Good For Us

Thank you Allvest for taking one for the team.

On his recent Air Canada flight from Toronto to Hong Kong, Allvest boarded on time at 10 a.m. and all was well. Then, after sitting on the tarmac for about an hour, he and the rest of the passengers are informed that the plane is broke and so they head back to the terminal.

Back at the terminal, they all get off and the Air Canada gate agents tell ’em, “Hey everyone, go grab some lunch or something and meet us back here at 2 p.m. and we’ll give this another shot. Don’t be late or we’ll leave without you – and we aren’t going to give you a reminder on the PA system either.”.

So Allvest dutifully returns and re-boards the airplane at 2 p.m. Forty-five minutes later they’re still sitting there at the gate. Allvest gets curious as to why this newly fixed plane isn’t moving and so checks for information. ExpertFlyer tells him that they are waiting for a new crew (odd, since the original crew is all onboard) – and sure enough, about 15 minutes later the captain announces the same thing.

Sucked for Allvest – but his re-telling of the painful experience served several useful purposes:

    • I imagine it helped Allvest to cope with the frustration in a positive way. At minimum, posting on FlyerTalk is a better strategy to deal with the stress of a delay than the alternative strategy that seems to be the favorite of many Chinese travelers.
    • Through the discussion we all are privileged to learn a bit more about how Flight Attendants manage their schedule and how/when airlines announce delays.

Allow me to elaborate on those last points. Or, better yet, allow me to share how others elaborated on those last points.

Regarding the announcement of flight delays:

As I understand it … the downline flight status gets updated upon aircraft Wheels Up. ~ChrisA330

Yup. I’ve seen a rouge flight be shown as “on time” at its scheduled departure time at YVR when the inbound plane had not taken off from SFO yet (2.5 hours delayed). ~guessaaa

Regarding the crew scheduling:

They only replaced some of the IFS crew. Weird. … The few IFS who departed in Yyz were all somewhat “entitled” younger crew. The veteran crew stayed on board. … After waiting for wheels up for 4 hours what do they have to gain by walking instead of waiting another 30 minutes? (Crew only get paid after the plane is in the air). A senior FA told me they “do it out of principle”. ~Allvest

Getting a new crew is not always as easy as it sounds. I believe there are always a few reserve FA’s on a 4 hour stand-by at the airport, however, that may not have been enough for your flight. Then there is the issue of having the proper number of language qualified FA’s for a particular flight as well, so it’ll take time to call them into the airport. …


I have heard this many times during delays, a few FA’s would be mingling together in the front galley discussing how they’re going to walk off.


They’d have their phones out, looking at the time, counting down hoping the main door wouldn’t be closed by a certain so they could call crew sked and either walk get drafted.


On a couple of occasions I even heard some crew strategizing about who would walk and who would ask from draft pay, and then they’d do the reverse amongst themselves the next time such a similar situation arose. ~jaysona

Being unfamiliar with the term “draft pay” and what that entailed I looked it up. What I found were 92 references to the word “draft” in the contract agreement between Air Canada and the Flight Attendants.

Now, some of the people discussing Allvest’s delay and the walk off by some of the crew members believe this is an indication of poor relations between management and staff. And that might very well be true.┬áBut after glancing over the contract it seems equally as likely that, what with the unbelievable number of scheduling and compensation rules, the Flight Attendants have figured out how to game the system to maximize their compensation, just like frequent flyers game the system to maximize their reward benefits.

And who can blame them for that?

Read the thread in its entirety: 5 hr + delay in AC15 Jan 13

Day 35” by Evan Goldenberg. CC BY-SA 2.0.


  1. There are pilots who turn the brake off then on at the gate to start their clocks, and others who fly or taxi slow. I also know some non-aviation people who call in sick when they aren’t. Uber drivers who take an extra 30 seconds to turn off their meters. And people who try to game every system ever made. However, it is my belief that the overall majority of crewmembers dont engage in these shenanigans.

  2. @Timer – I agree that most crew members probably don’t engage in shenanigans. In fact, if all they are doing is trying to maximize their compensation by following the contract rules then they aren’t being dishonest, they are just being shrewd.

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