WestJet says it is reviewing its policies after a video showing Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre using a plane’s public address (PA) system drew criticism on social media and from the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
On Monday, Poilievre posted a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, showing him addressing a plane full of people on a WestJet flight to Calgary.
In the video, the politician’s voice could be heard through speakers throughout the plane.
He thanked the pilot and cabin crew of the plane while also criticizing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s policies.
“Who’s ready to give a big thank you to the WestJet pilots and crew?” he asked in the video.
“There will be a little bit of turbulence but it will only last for about two years… We’ll have a totally new pilot and crew in charge, pierce through the storm and safely land in our home, the country we know and love. Your home, my home, our home.
“Let’s bring it home.”
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Alberta Local 4070 said in a statement on social media Tuesday evening that it is “disappointed” Poilievre was allowed to use the plane’s PA system for a political speech.
The cabin crew had no input on this decision, the union said, and WestJet’s work rules state that only cabin crew are allowed to use the PA system.
The union also demanded an apology from WestJet management and Poilievre.
“It’s very disappointing that WestJet management let a politician use the public address (PA) system on a recent flight for his political statement. It is doubly disappointing that WestJet is now trying to assign blame on the cabin crew for this event,” local president Alia Hussain said in the statement.
“A plane’s cabin crew should never be put in a position of having to take a political stance.
“A flight’s PA system should be used to give passengers information they need and require. The crew is responsible for the safety of everyone on board, and we take that responsibility seriously. WestJet management and Mr. Poilievre owe passengers and crew an apology.”
In a statement on Wednesday morning, WestJet chief executive officer Alexis von Hoensbroech said the flight was specifically added to assist the Conservative Party of Canada’s convention and the airline is “non-partisan by nature.”
Hoensbroech added Poilievre was given the opportunity to greet delegates onboard which is not unusual.
“The leader of the party was given the opportunity to greet delegates onboard (which is not unusual), but this was not a political endorsement nor should it be interpreted as such.
“We are non-partisan by nature and will revisit our policy on this,” his post read.
Julia Kaiser, a spokesperson for WestJet, said the airline added two commercial flights between Western Canada and Quebec City to assist the demand of the CPC convention.
“The use of the PA microphone onboard our aircraft, while infrequent, may be approved occasionally, for unique occasions and individuals, like this one. WestJet routinely adds capacity for conventions, sports, festivals and key events,” she told Global News in an emailed statement.
Ian Lee, an associate professor of management at Carleton University, said it’s critical for businesses to remain non-partisan.
“Governments have been regulating the industry for a long time. And for that reason, businesses tend to be very, very careful about being non-partisan,” said Lee in an interview.
He said the fact that the flight was filled with party faithful made it a unique situation and he expects WestJet will make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“This was a one-off. It happened once coming out of a convention. And I think most reasonable people will say, ‘I understand why that happened,'” he said.
Global News reached out to the Conservative Party of Canada for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.
–With files from The Canadian Press.