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Air Canada Rouge Slammed By Disability Rights Activists After Passenger From Spinal Muscular Atrophy Had to Be Carried Down Airstairs

Air Canada Rouge Slammed By Disability Rights Activists After Passenger From Spinal Muscular Atrophy Had to Be Carried Down Airstairs

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Air Canada has been forced to apologise to a woman who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy who had to be carried down airstairs by three struggling airport employees in a ‘broken’ aisle wheelchair because no airbridge was available.

Tori Lacey, 26, recently flew with Air Canada Rouge, the airline’s leisure-focused subsidiary, from Toronto to Costa Rica for a long-awaited vacation but the trip got off to a bad start due to how Air Canada handled her disability.

Lacey says she contacted Air Canada months before the flight and informed the airline of her specific needs, including the fact that was incapable of navigating airstairs.

“They knew well ahead of time that I needed assistance getting on and off the aircraft,” Lacey told CBC News. “I’m not sure how that communication broke down, but clearly it did.”

On arrival in Costa Rica, Lacey says that she could see that a gate with a airbridge was available but the Air Canada Rouge plane ended up parking at a ‘remote stand’ which required passengers to deplane via airstairs.

In these kinds of circumstances, airports normally have a special vehicle known as an ‘ambulift’ available which is a highlifter that resembles an airline catering truck that can safely board and deboard passengers with reduced mobility.

No such vehicle was available for Lacey, and instead, three airport workers struggled to carry her down the airstairs in an aisle wheelchair, which lacked straps to secure Lacey’s limbs or even armrests.

“It felt like such an unsafe situation, not only for myself but also the workers who were also put in that position to carry me off the plane,” Lacey said. “It didn’t seem like this was a protocol that they had done before. They really didn’t know what they were supposed to do in this situation.”

Last year, Air Canada was slapped with a slew of fines totalling more than CA $260,000 for failing disabled passengers in a series of incidents.

In one incident, the Canadian Transportation Agency fined the airline for failing to provide a wheelchair for a passenger who suffers from spastic cerebral palsy, resulting in the passenger dragging themselves off the plane.

Air Canada has embarked on a three-year plan to improve its treatment of disabled passengers after admitting that it was sometimes not always meetings its legal commitments.

Following this latest incident, Air Canada seemingly suggested that it was normal for disabled passengers to be carried down airstairs, saying in a statement: “We have procedures for customers with disabilities to safely embark and disembark aircraft in such cases, and in this instance, all protocols were followed”.

A statement from the airline continued: “However, as part of our accessibility plan, we will be reviewing airport procedures, including for smaller foreign stations, with the aim of working with local airport and other partners to find ways to provide more consistent service.”

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