WestJet CEO apologizes for accessibility failures

WestJet chief govt officer Alexis von Hoensbroech apologized Thursday for incidents the place the airline did not accommodate folks residing with disabilities, saying he hopes to enhance journey accessibility.

“To our company who did not have journey expertise with us, we’re sincerely sorry, and we’re dedicated in doing higher,” von Hoensbroech stated throughout a Home of Commons transport committee listening to on accessible transportation.

Greater than 99.9 per cent of the provider’s 260,000-plus clients who required help final 12 months — roughly 700 every day, the overwhelming majority of whom used wheelchairs or mobility aids — had expertise, he stated.

“Each case that goes unsuitable is one too many,” the CEO stated.

A number of incidents have surfaced at Canadian airways over the previous 12 months.

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Ryan Lachance and his caregiver, Emma Proulx, say Air Canada crew want higher coaching to maintain folks with disabilities secure.

In August, a B.C. man with spastic cerebral palsy was pressured to tug himself off of an Air Canada airplane in Las Vegas. Final fall, former Paralympian Sarah Morris-Probert hauled herself up WestJet plane stairs relatively than having the ability to board utilizing her wheelchair.

“Everybody’s all the time very sorry and really dedicated to doing higher each time these items occur, however these high-profile incidents proceed to plague Canadian airways,” Conservative MP Mark Strahl advised von Hoensbroech.

“Ideas and prayers are not acceptable.”

Von Hoensbroech highlighted steps WestJet is taking to spice up accessibility. These embody a course of to verify to clients that mobility aids had been loaded into the cargo maintain and procedures to correctly retailer these gadgets on board throughout its entire community. Each measures are set for rollout “very quickly,” he stated.

Advocates insist more durable guidelines and enforcement are wanted to scale back accessibility obstacles.

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Air Canada has apologized to a B.C. man after workers advised him he would wish to get to the entrance of the airplane with none help. The airline has additionally admitted it violated Canadian incapacity laws. Rodney Hodgins hopes the scenario will result in systemic change.

“As a blind passenger, I dread coming into Canadian airspace, as a result of I by no means understand how good or dangerous can be my therapy,” stated David Lepofsky, a lawyer who chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, in a Wednesday information launch that known as for stricter laws and a crackdown by regulators.

“Month after month, the media has reported on inexcusable and recurring incidents the place an airline loses or destroys a passenger’s wheelchair, leaves a passenger with disabilities to crawl off an airplane, or strands a passenger with disabilities for hours in a Canadian airport with out wanted help.”

‘Insufficient enforcement and insufficient laws’

Current laws codify vital rules however fail to obviously spell out monetary penalties for breaches, stated Gabor Lukacs, president of the Air Passenger Rights advocacy group.

“The offender is the perennial drawback of insufficient enforcement and insufficient laws,” he advised the committee.

Penalties in opposition to giant airways over disabilities violations have sometimes topped $100,000. “Nonetheless, when the media is just not paying consideration the fines are insignificant,” Lukacs stated.

Final week, the Canadian Transportation Company penalized Air Transat to the tune of $11,000 after it did not shortly present an appropriate substitute for a passenger’s mobility assist that had been misplaced on arrival in Venice. Airline proprietor Transat A.T. Inc. took in $3 billion in income final 12 months.

The company’s enforcement crew tracks complaints to scan for a sample of contraventions, and appears to impose fines when it sees an issue as “systemic,” stated Tom Oommen, the company’s director normal of study and outreach, in an interview final month

Lukacs additionally known as for a authorities mandate to trace and put up statistics on disability-related complaints and mishandled mobility aids, because the U.S. Division of Transportation does.

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