Air Canada
Representative image of an Air Canada plane | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Air Canada has been slapped with a hefty fine after a disabled passenger had to drag himself off a plane because the airline did not provide him with wheelchair assistance.

Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has issued a fine of £58,075 against Air Canada for violating the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations, among other breaches.

Air Canada has 30 days to appeal the fine before the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.

The incident occurred on August 30, 2023 when Rodney Hodgins, who has spastic cerebral palsy and can't move his legs, was flying with the airline from Vancouver in Canada to Las Vegas in the US.

Upon landing, Hodgins, who uses a motorised chair which was in the plane's cargo hold, was told by flight attendants that there was no narrow aisle chair to transport him from his seat to the front of the plane.

Hodgins, who had travelled to Las Vegas to celebrate his and his wife's wedding anniversary, was instead forced to drag himself forward 12 rows, with his wife Deanna behind for support. The 49-year-old man said he was left in "significant pain", while his wife Deanna called the lack of assistance "dehumanising".

"On August 30, 2023, Air Canada failed to assist a wheelchair user to disembark its aircraft. The passenger, who has spastic cerebral palsy and is unable to move his legs, was forced to disembark the aircraft on his own.

"In addition, while the passenger was waiting in the terminal, Air Canada failed to ensure that their personnel periodically inquired about his needs," read a statement on CTA's official website.

At the time of the incident, Air Canada customer service contacted the couple offering a $2,000 flight voucher for future travel. But Hodgins said he wanted the top Canadian airline to change its policy so that someone is always there to meet a person with a disability when the aircraft lands.

"It hurt my legs. For three days I felt terrible on my holiday. I thought, they don't care about me, they just want me to get off this plane," Hodgins said in an interview.

On November 9, Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau apologised and said it would make a series of changes internally to improve the way it deals with passengers with disabilities.

The airline recently claimed it would fast-track a plan to update the boarding process, change the way it stocks mobility utilities like wheelchairs, and improve its training procedures for thousands of employees. The airline also said it would open a new senior position to ensure the plan is executed smoothly.

Air Canada was forced to pay fines of around £154,000 last year for a series of incidents involving disabled travellers, as per the Aviation website Paddle Your Own Kanoo.