MONTREAL — Air Canada has appealed against a decision by the country’s transportation regulator that seeks to boost accessibility for passengers living with a disability.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
If successful, the move would completely eliminate the need to accommodate passengers whose wheelchairs are too large to be carried in airplane cargo holds.
The Canadian Transportation Agency’s decision marks the culmination of an ongoing case dating back to 2016, when flyer Tim Rose was told his power wheelchair would not fit on the plane, preventing him from traveling to Ohio as planned.
After a series of decisions, the regulator ruled in 2023 that Air Canada must either find passengers with disabilities a similar flight on a comparable route or swap to an aircraft that is able to carry mobility devices.
Rose called Air Canada’s appeal “sad and unfortunate.”
“It was really disappointing,” he said, especially after the airline unveiled new measures last year that it said would improve the travel experience for passengers with disabilities.
“I feel like Air Canada is talking out of both sides of its mouth right now. The hypocrisy is that on the one hand they are suggesting they are trying to improve… on the other hand they are continuing to fight my precedential decision that provides respect and access to all Canadians who are wheelchair users Is.
Air Canada says it has accepted most of the ruling’s mandates to remove barriers, including an obligation to find a plane to fly within a day of the desired travel date, as long as customers book three weeks in advance. Makes requests.
“What we are challenging is the obligation to change aircraft scheduled for a route on an ad-hoc basis with short notice,” said spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.
In the summer of 2016, Rose was informed that he could not book a flight from Toronto to Cleveland – “ironically to give a presentation about disability awareness in big business,” he said.
“When I told the representative at the Air Canada medical desk that this was discriminatory, she said, ‘No, your wheelchair is like a piece of luggage. If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit.’
“It’s my mobility. You wouldn’t call someone’s legs accessories,” said Rose, an accessibility consultant who has cerebral palsy. “In this case, they wouldn’t even let me set foot on the plane.”
In 2022, a transportation agency tribunal found that she and all people who use elder mobility aids face “undue barriers” to mobility at Air Canada. The decision came after a tussle between the two sides, with a 2019 decision establishing that there were barriers to mobility but not necessarily unreasonable ones, and a COVID-19-induced pause on proceedings.
The post-2023 decision said airlines deploy additional aircraft “on a daily basis” in response to everything from bad weather to mechanical problems, and so should be able to do the same for occasional access.
“Since Air Canada routinely replaces aircraft in the case of irregular operations, it is unlikely that doing so to accommodate a person with a disability would have a significant impact on the rights of other passengers or Air Canada’s ability to provide customer service.” effect,” the Aug. 11 decision states.
In its Dec. 21 appeal notice, Air Canada argues that the replacement is needed on planes with large cargo doors — some are only more than two and a half feet high, while many can only collapse to power wheelchair height. Three Feet – Symbolizes an “undue difficulty” for the bearer, which puts it at a competitive disadvantage.
The claim filing says the agency failed to consider all factors or apply appropriate analysis to determine the cause of that hardship.
The appeal comes just six weeks after Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau apologized for the airline’s accessibility shortcomings.
In a press release, they said the carrier would accelerate a three-year accessibility plan after several recent reports of passenger abuse, including an incident in which a man with spastic cerebral palsy was forced to be pulled from an airplane in Las Vegas. it was done. Due to lack of support.
“Air Canada recognizes the challenges customers with disabilities face when flying and accepts our responsibility to provide convenient and consistent service that makes it easy to fly with us. Sometimes we do not meet this commitment, For which we sincerely apologize,” the chief executive said on November 9.
Measures the airline plans include setting up a customer access director to providing frequent boarding to passengers who request elevator assistance first. Air Canada aims to implement annual, recurring training in accessibility for its 10,000 airport employees — such as how to use the Eagle lift — and incorporate mobility assistance into an app that can track luggage.
“It’s very difficult to reconcile those comments with our experience with Air Canada, because their obligation according to accessibility planning is the very thing they are fighting against in this case,” said Ilinka Stephen, a lawyer with the ARCH Disability Law Centre. , which represents a rose.
The airline’s appeal also protests the regulator’s order that it include power wheelchair accommodations in its accessibility plans, particularly when it comes to aircraft purchasing and selection on Canada-US routes.
Air Canada said in a filing last year that the agency “does not have the jurisdiction or power to impose content” on that plan.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2024.
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Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press