October 16, 2021
Free to Fly — a group of airline professionals and passengers opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine mandates for airline workers and those who travel — is set to hit 50,000 members and start an active campaign against the policy.
The welcome message on the site reads: “For our entire history, Canadians have enjoyed freedom of movement, most recently in flight. We also hold our health freedoms dear, along with our right to liberty and security for the person under Sec. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as upheld by the Supreme Court.
“Recent mandates in the private and public sector violating these are causing you and your families increasing anxiety. We share your grave concern.”
The site was created in April by a Canadian pilot who’s asked that only his first name be used. Matt has worked in the industry for 14 years and faces being put on leave without pay as of October 30 for not getting the jab, along with thousands of others airline employees.
“I wanted to take all the anger we were seeing among our pilot cohort and make it productive so we organized ourselves as best we could to help our passengers who will be facing the same mandates,” said Matt in an interview with the Western Standard.
Matt confirmed the group consists of more than 2,500 Canadian airline professionals and 18-20,000 Canadian passengers and continues to grow in membership daily.
“We expect to have over 50,000 members by sometime next month,” said Matt, adding he plans to start an “active recruiting stage” soon.
“There is a keen sense of time ticking,” he said, referring to the proof of vaccine mandate deadlines looming for staff in the coming weeks for two of Canada’s largest carriers — Westjet and Air Canada.
According to a press release dated August 25, Air Canada announced it is “mandatory for all employees of the airline to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to report their vaccination status as of October 30, 2021.”
Westjet released this statement on September 8: “The WestJet Group today announced that effective October 30, 2021, all WestJet Group employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”
“By coming together and forming a unified identity, our group aims to leverage inside industry knowledge and numbers to impact the court of public opinion, create awareness and put pressure on these airlines,” said Matt.
He added the group is in touch with a number of medical and scientific doctors with “specialized COVID knowledge” who are advising the group about concerns, one being the risk of thrombosis, when blood clots block vessels.
“For years they’ve always pushed compression socks on us (airline workers), but there seems to be a heightened risk possibly due to these vaccines,” said Matt.
Matt told the Western Standard the group is working on putting together media presentations they plan to release next month.
“Case studies, passenger backstories, employee stories … we want to put personal faces to the stories of pilots, airline staff and passengers.”
“For instance, some of these pilots I’ve worked with have dreamt about being a pilot their whole lives and are now watching their dream just slip away,” said Matt, adding he hopes the stories encourage people to support their efforts.
Matt also spoke to the divisiveness the mandates have caused within the airline industry.
“They (those vaccinated) see us (unvaccinated) as being what stands in the way of things going back to normal,” said Matt, but pointed out even for those who have chosen to be vaccinated, there really are “few benefits.”