Time Warped: The Flexibilization and Maximization of Flight Attendant Working Time*


  • *An earlier version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association, Halifax, June 2003. This project is supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I am deeply indebted to union officials at the Air Canada Component of the Airline Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and to CUPE headquarters staff for providing access to archival documents and for giving so generously of their time on many occasions. I also wish to express my gratitude to the flight attendants who shared their lives with me, thereby allowing this research to take shape. The constructive suggestions of Marilyn Porter and the anonymous CRSA reviewers are kindly appreciated. Finally, I would like to thank Wallace Clement for encouraging me to continue my research on the transformation of work in the airline industry. This manuscript was first submitted in September 2003 and accepted in May 2004. Contact: vshalla@uoguelph.ca.


Le temps de travail a été le sujet de débats et de luttes tout au long de l'histoire du capitalisme industriel, et le contexte actuel de transformation économique et sociale rapide a sur lui de profondes répercussions. Au moyen d'une étude de cas des nouvelles réalités de temps de travail des agentes et agents de bord d'Air Canada, cet article aide à améliorer notre compréhension des répercussions de ces mutations sur les travailleuses et travailleurs dans notre économie de services en pleine croissance. Je veux montrer que le régime de temps de travail de l'aviation commerciale de l'époque de la mondialisation-déréglementation a renforcé la réification de la force de travail des agentes et agents de bord.

Working time has been the subject of debates and struggles throughout the history of industrial capitalism, and the current context of rapid economic and social transformation is having profound repercussions on it. Through a case study of the new working-time realities of flight attendants at Air Canada, this article helps fill the gap in our understanding of the impact of changing temporalities on workers in the ever-expanding service economy. I demonstrate that the globalization/ deregulation-era airline-industry working-time regime has deepened the commodity status of flight attendant labour power.