Airlines push back, clarify UN report that gave Canada a poor grade in flight safety

Airlines push back, clarify UN report that gave Canada a poor grade in flight safety

Air Canada is clarifying a UN agency audit that gave Canada a poor C grade on flight safety.

As reported Thursday (Dec. 7) by the Canadian Press, which obtained a copy of the confidential audit, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) says Canada has fallen to a score of 64 out of 100 in safety practices, with aircraft operations, airports and air navigation showing the biggest drop offs.

It’s alarming, given that Canada’s score topped 95 per cent in the UN body’s previous report back in 2005.

ICAO is recommending Ottawa implement a system to lock in full regulatory compliance by airlines and airports, reinforce certification related to dangerous goods and ensure proper training and fatigue management for air traffic controllers, CP reports.

Air Canada, however, was quick to issue a response shortly after the revelations surfaced yesterday, saying that ICAO’s audit has nothing to do with the safe operation of Canadian aircraft.

Canada’s flag carrier says it has its own “rigid internal safety processes.”

“These are evaluated and audited regularly by the International Air Transport Association, the global airline association consisting of 300 members,” Air Canada wrote in a statement. “The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) is the gold standard for evaluating safety for airlines and passing it is a condition of membership.”

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The airline says its most recent IOSA audit was in November and that Air Canada “passed with exemplary findings, well above the average.”

“Additionally, we continually engage with other aviation organizations and authorities around the world to promote safety and to share best safety practices,” Air Canada wrote. 

WestJet responds

WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech took to X, formally known as Twitter, on Thursday to share his thoughts on the report.

“This review was focused exclusively on Transport Canada, not Canadian airlines and therefore does not assess or reflect WestJet’s industry leading safety standards,” von Hoensbroech wrote.

He added that WestJet is “voluntarily and consistently audited to IOSA and ICAO, the highest international safety standards.”

How Canada ranked

ICAO conducted its audit between May 31 and June 14 this year, and examined eight areas, such as legislation, licensing and accident investigations.

In those three categories, Canada scored between 67 and 83, which were down by at least eight points from ICAO’s last safety audit, CP revealed.

The scores measure a country’s “safety oversight capability” based on the UN agency’s questionnaires, checklists and on-site visits to industry players, including Air Canada, Nav Canada and the Montreal airport.


Canada ranked below other G7 countries, except for the United Kingdom, in most of the categories, and also below most of the 38 states in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is club of economically developed countries.


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