In 2001, Sobora Duy flew from his home in Orlando to Montréal to visit his father, who was ill with cancer. When he missed his return flight to the United States, the sympathetic Montréal-based Air Canada agent gave him a two-week extension. “Those were the last two weeks I had with my dad before he died,” says Duy. “When I moved back to Montréal, Air Canada was the only option for me.”
Air Canada is the country’s largest airline by size and passengers carried. Although Duy had a background in human resources, he joined Air Canada in 2014 as a customer sales and service agent at a Montréal call centre. “I figured I could put my foot in the door and learn the airline industry from a customer-service point of view,” he says.
That’s exactly what Duy did, soon moving into roles in diverse areas — social media co-ordinator, benefits specialist, leaves administrative manager — before becoming manager for mental health and wellness programs in 2021. “My team encouraged me to return to human resources, and it wasn’t a hard transition,” he says. “At that point, I needed to learn the corporate side of Air Canada — what other branches are doing, how the structure works.”
Before Duy’s father passed away, he made his son promise to take care of his health. Duy blogged about his weight-loss journey and his commitment to a healthy lifestyle didn’t go unnoticed at the office. When asked if he’d be interested in leading the employee wellness program, Unlock the Best in You (UBY), he didn’t hesitate.
UBY’s mission is promoting wellness through innovation, prevention and connection — whether that’s connecting one-on-one or with groups of colleagues in Canada or in other countries. “Our goal is to create a culture where people feel supported in achieving their health goals,” says Duy.
According to Arielle Meloul, executive vice-president, chief human resources officer and public affairs, ensuring that everyone maintains their physical and mental health is a priority. Air Canada has its own chief medical officer, as well as medical offices in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver. “So many of our employees are on the road keeping our operations going, and we feel strongly about taking care of them,” says Meloul.
A lawyer who was born and raised in Montréal, Meloul joined Air Canada in 1997 as assistant general counsel and director of legal services as the airline was building a world-class legal team. “I loved private practice, but I have a passion for business, and the lure of getting deep into the business proved to be challenging and exciting,” she says.
After 14 years, Meloul became senior director of human resources, moving through various executive roles until she assumed her current scope in 2020. “We needed to get our employees re-engaged, and I was tapped to help move the culture along,” she says. “We wanted human resources to become a true business partner, and over the years my role grew.”
Growing roles and offering diverse opportunities are key to employee satisfaction. “We don’t believe in putting our people in boxes on an organizational chart — we’re very big on moving talent around based on individual skill sets,” says Meloul.
Value is also added through internal and external diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, such as the Girls in STEM program, where middle-school students visit Air Canada and meet women in non-traditional roles such as engineers and pilots. “Diversity is part of Air Canada’s DNA, with our employees speaking more than 50 languages,” says Meloul. “We fly to multiple countries, and our customers and employees reflect that.”
This story was produced by Mediacorp in partnership with Postmedia, on behalf of Air Canada.