WestJet & Air Canada must offer extra free seat - Victory for disabled and obese travellers
May 14, 2008
The Federal Court of Appeal has turned down a request by Air Canada and WestJet appealing a Canadian Transportation Agency ruling that requires them to offer a free seat to an attendant accompanying a disabled passenger, or to obese passengers who need extra room. The ruling leaves the airlines 12 months to draft regulations on accommodating qualified disabled passengers. The policy is already in place for train, bus and marine travel in Canada.
The airlines had argued that the so-called one-person, one-fare policy would be expensive, but the transportation agency rejected the claim.
"The airlines failed to demonstrate to the Agency that implementation of a one-person-one-fare policy will impose undue hardship on them," it said.
"The agency estimates that the cost of implementing the one-person-one-fare policy represents 0.09 % of Air Canada's annual passenger revenues of $8.2 billion, and 0.16 % of WestJet's equivalent revenues of $1.4 billion."
“We're thrilled," said Laurie Beachell, national co-ordinator of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. "I think this may be a first for air travel."
A spokesman for Air Canada said the company is still examining the decision by the court and would not discuss options.
The issue dates back to 2002, when the council took the complaints of Joanne Neubauer of Victoria and Eric Norman, of Gander, who felt that they needed medical assistance not offered by the airlines to travel, to the transportation agency.