CanJet Rehiring Flight Staff for New Charter Operation

CanJet Airlines will rehire more than 100 pilots and flight attendants and eventually rebuild a national charter operation from the ashes of its defunct passenger service, the company's owner said yesterday.

CanJet, which laid off 456 workers on Sept. 5 when it abruptly ended scheduled passenger service, has since arranged to provide autumn and winter charter flights between various Canadian cities and sunspot destinations.

Ken Rowe, chairman and CEO of IMP Group Ltd., CanJet's privately held parent company, plans to restructure the airline into a charter business before the winter tourism season.

"One hundred pilots and flight attendants will be hired over the next month or two, and they will join the nearly 70 CanJet personnel who have been retained during this transition period," he said. "I anticipate these numbers will increase as we secure additional charters going forward."

The airline will initially fly six Boeing 737-500 airliners and combine operations with Montreal-based Execaire, IMP Group's executive charter service, which flies smaller Challenger aircraft.

Rowe said he expects that in the summer the airline may fly some domestic charter flights between major Canadian cities, such as Halifax and Toronto.

"We may also consider Florida trips," he said.

Rowe confirmed that tour operator Sunquest will be booking six flights a week this winter, and said he expects to land other contracts next month.

Rowe faced criticism from a pilots' union representing the laid-off employees when he closed the airline. It said he appeared to be attempting to avoid unionization of the staff.

However, the executive said he ended scheduled service because it was consistently losing business to Air Canada and WestJet.

Rowe said he will negotiate collective agreements with CUPE, which represents flight attendants, and the Air Line Pilots Association, and expects to rehire workers based on seniority.

"I don't mind trade unions so long as they understand management has to run the company and we have to make a profit," he said.

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