Air Canada has apologized to a wheelchair user for violating Canadian accessibility laws when he was forced to drag himself off an airplane due to a lack of available assistance.
Rodney and Deanna Hodgins of Prince George, B.C., were flying from Vancouver to Las Vegas on August 30 when an Air Canada staff member informed them that Rodney would need to move to the front of the plane without help.
Rodney has Cerebral Palsy. Typically, he uses an aisle chair to exit the plane. An aisle chair is a narrow wheelchair that is designed to help disabled people get on and off of planes. Sadly, he was forced to drag himself to the front of the plane. His wife Deanna crawled behind him while moving his legs.
Beenish Awan, who is a representative with Air Canada sent the couple a lengthy letter acknowledging the airline’s wrongdoing. Deanna calls that “a victory”. However, the only compensation the couple was offered was $2,000 CAD in airline credit.
According to CTA data, they received 197 complaints concerning accessibility on flights during the 2022-2023 reporting year, including 54 about mobility aids and 46 about assistance concerns. Since 2018, 975 complaints about accessibility have been registered with the agency.
In the U.S, disabled people also face similar challenges when flying. Since the end of 2018, the country’s top airlines have lost or damaged at least 15,425 wheelchairs or scooters. 10,548 wheelchairs or scooters were lost, damaged, delayed, or stolen in 2019, the first full year of reporting. That works out to about 29 each day. By 2020, it had fallen to 3,464, or 9.5 per day. Passengers reported 712 mishandled devices, or nearly eight per day, in the first quarter of 2021.
In 2021, Engracia Figueroa died after developing a pressure sore, which subsequently became infected. She developed the sore after using a wheelchair that was loaned to her after her wheelchair was damaged by United Airlines.
Everyone should be able to take a flight safely. Air travel should be accessible for people with various disabilities. Hopefully, Air Canada will take steps to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.
Brooks, Laken. “Disability Advocate Engracia Figueroa Died after an Airline Damaged Her Wheelchair.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 9 Nov. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/lakenbrooks/2021/11/08/disability-advocate-engracia-figueroa-died-after-an-airline-damaged-her-wheelchair/?sh=722eb0f310d7.
Ghoussoub, Michelle. “Air Canada Says It Violated Disability Regulations When Passenger in Wheelchair Made to Drag Himself off Plane | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 3 Nov. 2023, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/air-canada-disability-act-1.7017059.
Sampson, Hannah. “Airlines Have Lost or Damaged More than 15,000 Wheelchairs since Late 2018.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 June 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2021/06/07/wheelchair-scooter-damage-airplane-flights/.