Retired teacher organizes rally as part of fight against Air Canada over plane ban

Montreal-based Air Canada should close down and start over in French — at least according to one British Columbia mother who says she has the support of hundreds of Canadians who also believe that the Canadian airline should make its commercial flights only in French.

Ryan McCarthy, a 59-year-old retired teacher from Grand Forks, B.C., has been organizing online in a effort to organize a rally Saturday on Parliament Hill, the Montreal Gazette reported.

More than 200 people had signed up on Facebook as of Friday evening.

McCarthy wrote in a Facebook post earlier this week that she was “demanding the CEO Jeff Watson step down, and also making it clear that we want Air Canada to change its policy and language on its English and French websites and advertisements.”

Air Canada has experienced a wave of controversy and angry protests since 2015, when it began forcing passengers flying into the United States to remove their phone devices from their bags in the United States. That was followed by a non-stop run of angry exchanges in 2019 over an ad that contained a photo of an Air Canada passenger flying past the Eiffel Tower and the caption, “We know some of you might have noticed a bird flying by, but we know they’re not hungry and have returned to their landing craft.”

“Our positions are extremely different, and we therefore expect the reasonable, healthy tone in our communications to be a consequence of the two of our differences,” McCarthy said in the post.

But “so far, the tone from management has not matched the tone from those on the outside,” she said.

The airlines recently released a policy that — while non-binding — could result in some passengers refusing to board flights that were carrying them over to the United States. In a letter released in December, Air Canada notified passengers that if they refuse to get off their phone, they’ll be escorted off the plane.

Air Canada already requires all of its employees to speak both official languages, but the policy appears to be the first time that Air Canada has required passengers to board on-board with no phones. Some passengers have objected, saying they can’t surrender their phones for whatever the reason might be.

While McCarthy supported the protesters in Quebec, she said the language of the protesters was a big part of the campaign’s success.

“Yes, I know that people are protesting about the economics and the management and all of that, but the major part of it is that the language of the protest was heard by management and approved by the executive.”

The Policy says: “The plane or vehicle will be asked to climb up onto the ramp and get off the aircraft in an orderly fashion. So if you have a flight ticket on a particular date and we ask you to leave the aircraft, you will leave the aircraft in an orderly fashion and will disembark at the departures gate.”

McCarthy said that recent changes to the airline’s language did nothing to quell her frustration with the airline’s actions.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think that this is the sign of this culture change. We have the same attitude in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “If our leadership would follow the policy that they are asking us to follow, we would be better for it. That is the obvious way to start these things off.”

Air Canada had not responded to a request for comment from The Washington Post by the time of publication.

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