Air Canada has been fined C$97,500 (NZ$116,700) after a disabled passenger was forced to drag himself off a plane when the airline failed to provide wheelchair assistance for him.
Rodney Hodgins, who has spastic cerebral palsy, had just landed in Las Vegas from Vancouver but was told that no aisle chair would be provided. They are narrower than regular wheelchairs, so they can be used to transport people on planes.
Hodgins, who uses a motorised chair which was in the plane’s cargo hold, initially thought the flight attendants were joking when he was told he needed to drag himself past 12 rows of seats, without any help from the crew, in an experience his wife Deanna called “dehumanising”.
Now the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has issued a penalty of C$97,500 against Air Canada for “several violations of the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations (ATPDR) related to its obligations around providing services to a person with a disability”.
In its outline, CTA wrote: “On August 30, 2023, Air Canada failed to assist a wheelchair user to disembark its aircraft. The passenger, who has spastic cerebral palsy and is unable to move his legs, was forced to disembark the aircraft on his own. In addition, while the passenger was waiting in the terminal, Air Canada failed to ensure that their personnel periodically inquired about his needs”.
After the incident, the airline apologised and offered flight vouchers to Hodgins.
Air Canada has 30 days to appeal the fine.
The Aviation website Paddle Your Own Kanoo says the airline has racked up fines of C$260,000 (NZ$311,180) this year for a series of incidents involving disabled travellers.
In one, it failed to block off a spare seat so that an assistance dog could travel with its owner, which resulted in the passenger being refused boarding. The fine then was C$110,000.