Maayan Ziv is a disability rights activist who relies on her wheelchair for independence. Maayan lives with Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic condition that can cause severe muscle weakness and degeneration, but her specialized electric wheelchair gives her mobility. It is, Maayan says, her “entire life”.
But when Maayan gets on a plane, she has to leave her wheelchair in the hands of the airline. Whether she gets the wheelchair back in one piece and still working is, however, like playing roulette.
Maayan’s luck ran out on Thursday when she got off an Air Canada flight in Tel Aviv, Israel and found her wheelchair badly damaged. To add insult to injury, Air Canada initially offered just $300 in the form of an e-voucher to cover the cost of the damage.
To all intents and purposes, Maayan did everything in her power to make sure her wheelchair was well looked after.
She had been invited to visit Tel Aviv by Israel’s tourism authority to take part in an accessibility conference taking place in the country. Ahead of her trip, Maayan called Air Canada and confirmed the aircraft, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, was large enough to accommodate her wheelchair because she can’t take it into the cabin and had to be stored in the hold.
Maayan got to the airport four hours early so that her team had plenty of time to protect the wheelchair in bubble wrap and ‘fragile’ tape before handing it over to the airline to look after.
After a ten-and-a-half-hour flight, Maayan discovered that Air Canada had damaged the wheelchair in transit.
Thankfully, Air Canada is now offering to cover the total cost of repairing Maayan’s wheelchair, but this offer is merely the “minimum requirement” Maayan says. The repair or replacement could take months during which time Maayan’s quality of life will be severely affected.
Sadly, Maayan’s story is far from unique.
In the United States, data from the Department of Transportation (DOT) shows that airlines mishandled 7,239 wheelchairs and scooters in 2021 and the rate is going up. In April, airlines mishandled nearly 900 wheelchairs and scooters in a single month
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.