A waltz of subcontractors that coincides with the summer season at Montréal-Trudeau continues to make waves between Aéroports de Montréal (ADM) and disgruntled carriers, who fear that travelers will pay the price. As if that were not enough, one of the new suppliers selected has just been ejected from Ottawa for its poor service.
The most recent salvo comes from Air China, which says it is working to restore its connection with the metropolis – suspended since the start of the pandemic. In a letter obtained by La Presse, the Chinese national carrier is at odds with the claims of ADM, which says it “informed all its partners” during the call for proposals.
“Several members have simply been informed of the final decisions”, denounces the carrier, in its missive addressed to the president and CEO of ADM, Philippe Rainville. “We believe that hasty decisions will cause unnecessary disruption. »
The changes concern tasks such as baggage handling as well as aircraft ramp and towing services, which are essential to the smooth operation of airport fluidity. Already established at Montreal-Trudeau, Swissport and ATS have been discarded in favor of Menzies Aviation and Samsic Assistance. TSAS — which counts Air Transat among its customers — remains in the picture.
Not all carriers use subcontractors. Air Canada, for example, has its own teams. ADM estimates that 80% of carriers “will not be affected by the changes.” Still, last summer’s airport chaos gave an idea of the potential disruptions when something goes wrong at an airport.
A group of six airlines, including Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines, had already expressed dissatisfaction with ADM management last month. Air China in turn protests.
“The tone is more direct,” says the Quebec coordinator of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), Michel Richer, familiar with the content of the letter. It is more direct and it shows that there is discontent. »
The IAMAW and Unifor deplore the changes since several hundred of their members are laid off at Swissport and ATR. There is no guarantee that they will be able to keep the same salaries and other benefits (recognition of seniority and social benefits) if they are recruited by the new subcontractors.
Menzies was also splashed on Wednesday. The company, which says it has a presence in 16 airports across the country, was shown the door of Ottawa International Airport. The reason: an inadequate level of service offered to Flair Airlines and Sunwing for everything related to handling.
“Problems have reached unsustainable levels over the past week,” the Ottawa International Airport Authority wrote in a statement. The levels of service that passengers have had to endure do not match the [desired] level. »
As of this writing, Menzies hasn’t commented on the decision. ADM’s confidence does not seem to be shaken.
“These are different airports, I don’t have the details that led to these decisions,” replies its director of public affairs, Anne-Sophie Hamel-Longtin. The contract was granted [for Montreal-Trudeau] on the basis of an assurance that they would provide the service. »
But aviation expert and McGill University lecturer John Gradek sees things differently.
“It’s legitimate to wonder if we chose the right company with Menzies,” he said. Will the company be able to be ready in time for Montreal-Trudeau? I’m wondering. »
Ms. Hamel-Longtin also rejects the airlines’ criticism of the lack of transparency shown by ADM. The process was carried out “by the book,” she says. It was overseen by an “independent committee” representing the carriers present at Montreal-Trudeau who evaluated the bids.
“The local [airline] representatives have received the information and it is their responsibility to circulate the information,” said Ms. Hamel-Longtin. We will not accept being told that we did not communicate well with the airlines because it is not true. »
In its letter sent to the Chairman and CEO of ADM, Air China demands that the “independent committee” explain how it selected the subcontractors. The carrier believes, like the other disappointed companies, to have been presented with a fait accompli last February.
As of April 1, the changes will begin to take effect. Swissport and ATS licenses will expire on June 30. However, the two companies risk having packed up before this date. According to our information, they have started sending termination notices to their customers. In some cases, the business relationship will end as early as May.
“It’s tomorrow morning, that! launches the Quebec coordinator of the IAMAW. If Menzies and Samsic are understaffed, who will do the job? »
On Wednesday, on the website of Samsic, whose head office is in France, there was no job offer posted for the Montreal region. On the Menzies side, the company has posted — in English only — a job offer for the person who will oversee the team to be assembled at Montreal-Trudeau. A need for “500 employees” is mentioned.
On Wednesday, Samsic and Menzies did not respond to questions sent by La Presse seeking an update on their preparation for Montreal-Trudeau.