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Pivot Airlines’ Canadian Crew Detained in the DR to be Released

Five crew members of Pivot Airlines being held in Dominican Republic. Two CUPE members include: Alexander Rozov (top left) and Christina Carello (top right). The one Unifor member includes: Bal Krishna Dubey (top middle), alongside two ALPA pilots (bottom).
Five crew members of Pivot Airlines being held in Dominican Republic. Two CUPE members include: Alexander Rozov (top left) and Christina Carello (top right). The one Unifor member includes: Bal Krishna Dubey (top middle), alongside two ALPA pilots (bottom).

The five-person Canadian flight crew of a Pivot Airlines charter who were detained in the Dominican Republic for seven months following their discovery of contraband cocaine is coming home.

As Open Jaw reported in APR, 200 bricks of cocaine were discovered onboard a Pivot Airlines chartered flight prior to its departure from the Dominican Republic en route to Canada. The airline and unions representing crew members maintain it was the crew who discovered and reported the contraband. Nonetheless, Dominican Republic authorities took the air crew into custody. The cocaine reportedly weighed 210 kg and was worth about $18 million.

After being taken to jail, five crew members and seven passengers were released on bail with a requirement that they stay in the country. Unions, including the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and Unifor, have since been calling on the Canadian government to intervene.

On 11NOV, Pivot announced that a deal was reached to allow the crew to come home. "...Paperwork was filed to free the five Pivot crew members who have been detained in the Dominican Republic for 220 days after reporting suspected contraband on their aircraft," Pivot CEO Eric Edmondson told CBC. "We are deeply relieved that these five Canadians will soon return home to their families and loved ones.”

However, there is no timetable for their release just yet. CUPE noted in a statement the crew’s release is pending a court hearing scheduled for late NOV. Edmondson confirmed the lack of timetable, saying: “We are urging the Dominican Republic authorities to begin the process of releasing the crew without delay…Due to this uncertainty, and the very real potential for unforeseen delays, we do not yet have a timeline for the crew's return.”

CUPE organized a letter-writing campaign that sent over 2,700 letters to Global Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and Members of Parliament to secure its members' release alongside the airline and union partners.

Among those detained included Christina Carello and Alexander Rozov, flight attendants and members of CUPE Local 4059, as well as Captain Rob Di Venanzo and another pilot, members of ALPA, and flight mechanic Bal Krishna Dubey, a member of Unifor.

"These last seven months have been the most difficult thing any of us have ever experienced. We have lived with constant uncertainty away from our loved ones and our lives. Today, the nightmare is finally one step closer to being over," Di Venanzo told CBC.

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