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Published March 19, 2024

‘Passed like a baton’: Advocates, Air Canada CEO clash on accessible travel

Air Canada - CP

Advocates and Air Canada's CEO are serving up opposing views of accessibility in the country's aviation system.

Michael Rousseau, who heads Canada's largest airline, told a House of Commons transport committee today that an overwhelming majority of the 1.3 million passengers who requested special assistance last year had a positive experience.

Under a three-year plan, Air Canada has pledged to roll out measures that range from establishing a customer accessibility director — now in place — to requiring annual training for its 10,000 front-line staff.

But disability rights advocate David Lepofsky says the complaint statistics fail to reflect the experience of many people living with disabilities, who sometimes wait unassisted for hours or have to instruct employees on how to guide them.

Lepofsky says Canada needs stricter rules and tougher enforcement to ensure consistency and accountability — and to prevent travellers from being "passed like a baton"  between the curb and the plane.

Multiple incidents have surfaced at Canadian airlines over the past year, including when a B.C. man with spastic cerebral palsy was forced to drag himself off of an Air Canada plane in Las Vegas.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2024

Banner image via The Canadian Press

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