Flight Options, Pilots At Odds Over CANPASS Requirement

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Pilots at fractional operator Flight Options, a subsidiary of the Raytheon Company and not part of its recent civil aviation assets sale, are reacting angrily to their employer's new requirement for them to gain Canadian approval for expedited entry into that country. According to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, whose Local 1108 represents the nearly 700 pilots at Flight Options, the operator recently decided to require its pilots to hold so-called CANPASS authorization, which permits certain travelers to enter Canada using expedited customs and immigration procedures. CANPASS stands for Canadian Passenger Accelerated Service System; to use the expedited customs and immigration procedures available through the program, all persons aboard an entering aircraft must participate and have received prior approval from the Canadian government. According to the labor union, "a traffic violation or misdemeanor conviction in the U.S. can prevent any individual from obtaining CANPASS authority. Because it is only a program of convenience, pilots who are not eligible for CANPASS are still able to fly to and from Canada using standard customs and immigration procedures, the union said.

Of course, that could be a major inconvenience to passengers and Flight Options's customers. According to the union, Flight Options has decided to terminate pilots unable or unwilling to obtain CANPASS authorization. The union said Raytheon's status as a defense contractor made its alleged willingness to terminate pilots unable to obtain CANPASS authorization "un-American." For good measure, union officials added they believed the company was hiding "behind the rules of a foreign government" in making its decisions. AVweb was unable to reach Flight Options representatives for comment. The union said it offered to assist management in developing scheduling procedures to retain pilot jobs and ensure no flight to Canada would be affected if a pilot did not have CANPASS, but Flight Options' management rejected the offer. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters won an election to represent the pilots at Flight Options in May 2006. The union's local presently is in negotiations with the operator on its first collective bargaining agreement.