The union representing various ground crews at Calgary International Airport is voicing concerns over the construction of a new centralized de-icing facility (CDF).
The airport authority confirmed to Global News on Friday that work is underway on the new facility, which upon completion would be the central location for de-icing aircraft in the winter months — meaning aircraft would no longer be hosed down at gates.
“With safety and guest experience as priorities, the airport is in discussions to improve our carrier’s ability to de-ice aircraft at YYC,” read a statement from the airport authority.
“We’ve heard from many guests on the delays and missed connections caused by de-icing, and a centralized process is an innovative solution to address those concerns and to reduce wait times during our cold winter months.
“We do not expect a centralized model will result in any increase in costs or fees to airlines or guests. Canadian airports, such as Toronto and Montreal, have for some time centralized their de-icing operations with success.”
Currently, individual airlines are responsible for the de-icing of their aircraft. Air Canada, for example, does their own de-icing work while other airlines contract out the work to companies like Swissport or Aéro Mag.
YYC Airport Authority believes the addition of a CDF will streamline the de-icing process, making it more efficient and faster for passengers. The new pad would be located beside a glycol recycling facility, making cleanup of the de-icing mixture easier and more environmentally friendly.
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But representatives with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) fear a switch to a centralized model will result in up to 125 layoffs and higher ticket prices for flyers.
Vice-president of IAMAW’s Air Canada YYC Shop Committee Wade Bieleny says the switch to a CDF would almost certainly mean a switch to a single de-icing provider.
“We believe that due to having a single provider, there will be less competition. So basically, this provider will be able to dictate the cost of spray,” Bieleny said.
“We feel that it’s going to increase fees because if the airlines have to pay more, obviously they’ll have to recoup that and it’s going to be in ticket prices. We feel that overall, the flying public is going to end up paying more to fly in and out of Calgary International Airport.”
General chairperson Keith Aiken added that the costs for de-icing have stayed relatively low for airlines because of the competitiveness among de-icing companies.
“If it becomes a monopoly, the cost will drive airlines to either leave YYC or not to fly into YYC at all,” Aiken said.
The airport authority could not say if there would be a switch to a single provider, and said the decision will rest with the airlines.
The centralized de-icing facility is expected to be completed and operational by winter 2019.
Union members have organized a rally at the airport on Saturday, March 23.