The Canadian Transportation Agency has slapped Air Canada with a fine of $97,500 (Rs 81,20,867) after a passenger was made to drag himself off a plane in Las Vegas when the airline failed to provide a wheelchair for him. The incident happened on August 30 when Rodney Hodgins, who has spastic cerebral palsy and can’t move his legs, was forced to disembark on his own.
It stated, ”On 30 August 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.”
Notably, the 49-year-old and his wife, Deanna Hodgins, had flown to Las Vegas in August to celebrate their anniversary. When the flight attendant told them they could not arrange a wheelchair, he thought they were joking. The couple said that the flight attendant then asked them if they could get to the front of the plane and disembark.
“I said, ‘Of course I can’t. I’m in a wheelchair. I can’t walk'”, he told.
But in the end, Mr Hodgins, a hardware salesman from British Columbia, was forced to use his upper body strength and drag him past 12 rows of seats, while his wife held his legs.
“He (flight attendant) said it to me a second time, so that’s when I got up and I told my wife, ‘Move my legs,’ and I dragged myself to the front of the plane,” he said.
In a Facebook post, Deanna Hodgins said the event left the couple devastated. ”It took us struggling, in front of a dozen people as some looked away and others looked on with shame, to get him off that plane … he hurt his legs and I hurt my back – emotionally a lot more were hurt … my husband’s human rights were trampled on and Air Canada won’t respond to us and never did reach out as they promised,” she wrote.
The airline said that they apologized to the couple after the incident and acknowledged in November that it violated Canadian disability regulations.
In a statement on Friday, Air Canada said it is continually working to “update our processes, introduce new measures to facilitate travel and act quickly to remedy any identified shortfalls.
”We fully appreciate the importance of making sure our customers with disabilities travel without encountering barriers and receive consistently reliable service,” the statement said.