Air Canada, the country’s largest airline, operates several customer contact centres around the world, with its Saint John, New Brunswick centre among its largest. The Saint John centre celebrated 25 years of operation in the Port City last year, having first opened its doors in 1996.
With air travel rebounding after a two-year pandemic-driven drop, the company is again expanding its New Brunswick workforce. Marco Ouellet, Customer Service Manager in Saint John, spoke to us about the company’s restart of its operations.
ONB: What numbers account for this latest recruiting push?
Ouellet: We are very pleased to see passenger loads continue to rebound. On April 15 we welcomed 100,701 customers on board our planes. The last time Air Canada carried more than 100,000 customers in one day was in March 2020. Another encouraging sign that we have recovered operationally from the effects of COVID-19 was our bookings in March of this year came close (90%) to matching 2019 levels.
This year, our workforce during the summer peak operating season surpasses over 30,000 active employees.
What benefits has Air Canada seen from operating in New Brunswick for over 25 years?
The benefits we enjoy from being in New Brunswick stem from the fact that we do much more than just operate in New Brunswick. From the moment we opened our doors in 1996 the city of Saint John has welcomed us with open arms. No one was prouder that day than Shirley McAlary, the former mayor of Saint John, and former Air Canada employee.
Over the past 25 years, it is an understatement to say that our employees in Saint John take great pride in their city and in their work. Our call centre employees receive calls from customers from all over the world. As a manager, I have had a front-row seat to the dedication, professionalism, and commitment of our front-line employees as they help customers along every step of their journey. No matter the request, we strive to deliver a personal experience for every customer because we care.
Today, our Saint John contact centre has 300 employees. Among those 300, 43 have been with us since that first year and, this year, another 33 will be celebrating their 25th service anniversary.
Our Saint John employees have always been committed to their community; caring is part of their DNA. Whether it’s assisting with flood relief, Habitat for Humanity, or the Salvation Army, to name just a few.
For anyone considering applying, can you describe a day in the life of an agent?
Working in our contact centres means working in a modern work environment that runs 24/7 handling inbound calls from customers anywhere in the world. We deliver the highest level of customer service to customers who are seeking trusted travel advice for a trip that they’ve been dreaming about or who may be asking for assistance during a trip.
It’s important to note that the contact centre in Saint John helps support our contact centre colleagues across Canada through its specialized desks. Our team is also focused on providing our contact centre colleagues with the same high level of service we provide our customers.
And as I mentioned, nearly one-third of our employees can chart their careers from the beginnings of our Saint John centre 25 years ago. They possess a wealth of knowledge and experience and are anxious to share it with our new employees, who sincerely appreciate the support.
What does Air Canada offer in terms of a hiring package, possibilities for growth, etc.?
The Customer Sales and Service Agent (CSSA) role is a full-time, permanent, hourly position. The salary increases progressively at regular intervals. Complete details on salary progression can be found on our careers page. Medical and dental insurance coverage is provided to employees and their eligible dependents – and this begins on day one of employment. The basic health & dental plan cost is 100% paid for by Air Canada. We recognize the importance of Employee Wellness. Our Unlock the Best in You (UBY) program offers guidance and resources covering health and wellness, mental health awareness, financial wellbeing, work health, and more. We’re also pleased to provide employees with a comprehensive retirement program.
Our compensation package goes far beyond salaries. Our employees enjoy standby travel privileges that begin on the first day of work. There are also many opportunities for career growth – both in Saint John and within our larger Air Canada network.
Can you describe the working relationship between Air Canada and ONB?
Air Canada is proud to be one of the country’s top employers and we have enjoyed working with ONB which has helped us to reach communities everywhere in New Brunswick. We’ll continue to collaborate with ONB to make sure New Brunswickers know there are great opportunities with Air Canada in Saint John.
Is there anything else you feel people need to know about Air Canada and this latest recruiting push?
I’ll close by saying that at Air Canada, diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just words on a page. As Canada’s largest airline, our country’s flag carrier, and a founding member of Star Alliance, we aim to create a healthy and rewarding work environment for all Air Canada employees. It’s essential to our success. We believe that being authentic at work is so incredibly important to delivering our very best and feeling proud of who we are and what we do.