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Air Canada fined $97.5K for failing to assist passenger in wheelchair

The Canadian Transportation Agency has handed Air Canada a fine of $97,500 after a passenger who uses a wheelchair was made to drag himself off a plane in Las Vegas.

In a statement, the CTA said the airline must pay for “several violations of the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations.”

On Aug. 30, Prince George, B.C., resident Rodney Hodgins, who has spastic cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair, was told by Air Canada crew in Las Vegas that no assistance was available to help him off the plane.

Hodgins lifted himself down to the floor and used his arms to drag himself from Row 12 to the front of the plane, as his wife crawled behind him to help. The incident, which he described as “dehumanizing,” left him in pain for days. 

“Air Canada failed to assist a wheelchair user to disembark its aircraft,” the CTA statement said “… In addition, while the passenger was waiting in the terminal, Air Canada failed to ensure that their personnel periodically inquired about his needs.”

Rodney Hodgins said the experience left him in pain and discomfort for several days.
Rodney Hodgins said the experience left him in pain and discomfort for several days. (Submitted by Deanna Hodgins)

Air Canada has 30 days to request a review before the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.

The CTA website also lists an October 2023 incident for which the airline was fined. On Dec. 12, Air Canada was ordered to pay $52,500 for “[failing] to permit a person with a disability to board in advance of other passengers,” and “not returning the mobility aid to the person on arrival at the destination without delay.”

The CTA launched an investigation into the Las Vegas incident following a CBC News story. After reports that a second passenger had been dropped by Air Canada crew members on a flight to Vancouver, the airline was summoned to Ottawa for a meeting with the minister of transportation. 

On Nov. 9 Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau apologized and said it would make a number of changes internally to improve the way it treats passengers with disabilities.

The airline said Thursday it would fast-track a plan to update the boarding process, change the way it stores mobility aids like wheelchairs, and update its training procedures for thousands of employees. The airline also said it would hire a new senior position to ensure the plan is rolled out properly.

Following the November meeting, Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez said the airline would have a follow-up meeting in Ottawa ahead of the busy holiday travel season. The Ministry of Transportation did not respond to a CBC News email asking whether the follow-up meeting had occurred. 

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