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Airline ditches life vests to save on fuel

Air Canada Jazz: The planes will be 25 kilograms lighter! Oh, and everybody may drown...  Aug 25, 2008

Air Canada Jazz’s decision to drop inflatable life vests from its flights is "asinine," Halifax-area MP Peter Stoffer said Saturday.

"They’re removing life vests?" he asked. "Are they nuts?"

The NDP member for Sackville-Eastern Shore said Jazz has "gone cost-saving overboard."

"You know what this is? This is probably some person in an office somewhere that’s sitting there going: ‘These life vests weigh so much. If we take them off and meet the minimum of the transport guidelines, we could save so much fuel per year.’


The Toronto Star reported Saturday that Jazz, Air Canada’s regional affiliate, plans to reduce fuel consumption by dropping commercial life vests from its flights, which will amount to about 25 kilograms less aboard its Dash-8 planes with 50 seats.

The move will leave passengers holding onto their seats — or at least their floating seat cushions — in the event the plane ditches and they hit the water alive.

Transport Canada regulations allow airlines to use flotation devices, a secondary option for other carriers, instead of life vests as long as the planes remain within 90 kilometres of shore. A Jazz official said a number of its East Coast routes were adjusted so the planes met that requirement, the Star reported.

Thirteen Jazz flights were in Halifax within a four-hour span on Saturday, heading to and from places like Deer Lake, Goose Bay, Gander, Charlottetown, Sydney, Boston and New York.

A Halifax-area woman who said she’s an experienced flyer wasn’t too concerned with the airline’s decision to ditch life vests. She said that since Jazz doesn’t fly transatlantic routes, the time most of its planes spend over any "serious body of water" is probably minimal.

She also said a person’s chances of surviving a crash into water are not very good.

Jazz’s decision "doesn’t bother me," said the resident, who didn’t want to be identified. "I don’t see it as a huge issue."

Mr. Stoffer worked in the airline industry in customer service for more than 18 years and takes more than 90 return flights every year. He said he can appreciate that the airline is trying to reduce fuel costs but added: "You don’t compromise safety."

He wondered what would happen to those who cannot hold onto the straps of the seat cushions, especially people travelling with children.

"If you have an infant (and) you don’t have a (life vest), you’re hanging on to the cushion," he said. "Are they saying, ‘Hang onto the cushion with one arm and your baby with another?’

"I mean, who comes up with these things?"

Air Canada Jazz: The planes will be 25 kilograms lighter! Oh, and everybody may drown...

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