An Air Canada business class passenger was left outraged and furious when he discovered that the flight attendant assigned to his zone could not speak French.
Local news TVA Nouvelles reported that Jean-Pierre Beaudoin was flying with his wife from Quebec City (YQB) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) on March 21, 2023. They were both booked on business class on flight AC1688.
Beaudoin, who is bilingual and can speak French and English, realized that he was being served by a flight attendant who only spoke English. He then issued a request for a flight attendant who could speak French.
The flight attendant then found a colleague who was able to speak French.
The English-speaking flight attendant then told Beaudoin, through the help of the French-speaking colleague: “’Sir, this is my section. You have the right to leave the plane or I will serve you.”
When Beaudoin still insisted on being served in French, a male staff member entered the plane shortly to tell him that he had two choices: he could be served by the English-speaking flight attendant, or he could leave the aircraft.
Beaudoin decided to stay on the flight “as a matter of principle” and for the entire flight, he would respond in French when spoken to by the flight attendant.
After the flight, Beaudoin filed a complaint with the Quebec Office of the French Language. Air Canada is subject to Canada’s Official Languages Act, which gives equal status to both English and French.
He said he did not file the complaint with Air Canada as he did not trust the airline’s complaint handling process.
Although English and French are Canada’s co-official languages, Air Canada does not require its flight attendants to speak both languages.
“As Canada’s flag carrier, we’re proud to offer bilingual services. Candidates who speak both English and French fluently are preferred. As well, if you speak one or more of the following languages, make sure to let us know: Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Italian, German, Arabic, Hebrew, Portuguese, Greek, Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Punjabi and Turkish,” the airline states on its career opportunities website page for flight attendants.