OTTAWA – January 10, 2008 – The Canadian Transportation Agency has ordered Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet to adopt a one-person-one-fare policy for persons with severe disabilities who travel within Canada by air. The airlines have one year to implement the policy.
The tribunal’s Decision means that for domestic services, Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet may not charge more than one fare for persons with disabilities who
are accompanied by an attendant for their personal care or safety in flight, as required by the carriers’ domestic tariffs, or
require additional seating for themselves, including those determined to be functionally disabled by obesity for purposes of air travel.
The Decision does NOT apply to:
persons with disabilities or others who prefer to travel with a companion for personal reasons;
persons with disabilities who require a personal care attendant at destination, but not in-flight; and
persons who are obese but not disabled as a result of their obesity.
The Decision is based on longstanding principles of equal access to transportation services for persons with disabilities, regardless of the nature of the disability, and the Agency’s legislative mandate to remove “undue obstacles” to their mobility. The Decision respects related decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Court of Appeal.
The airlines are expected to develop a screening process to assess eligibility under the one-person-one-fare policy. For persons who travel with an attendant as required by the carriers’ domestic tariffs, the Decision notes that carriers already perform assessments and have screening mechanisms to determine fitness and conditions for travel. Their screening mechanisms could be adapted to include functional assessments, and related screening expertise is available to them. For persons disabled by obesity, the Agency cites the practical experience of Southwest Airlines, which screens for entitlement to an additional seat by determining whether a person can lower the seat’s armrests.
The airlines failed to demonstrate to the Agency that implementation of a one-person-one-fare policy will impose undue hardship on them. The Agency estimates that the cost of implementing the one-person-one-fare policy represents 0.09 per cent of Air Canada’s annual passenger revenues of $8.2 billion and 0.16 per cent of WestJet’s equivalent revenues of $1.4 billion.
The three applicants in the case were the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Joanne Neubauer of Victoria, and the Estate of the late Eric Norman, who was a resident of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador.
In a separate statement released today, the Agency offered to facilitate a collaborative process for implementation of the one-person-one-fare Decision. “It would be desirable to have a common screening approach to determine eligibility to benefit under the one-person-one-fare policy,” said Geoffrey Hare, Chairman and CEO of the Agency. “A co-operative approach would be potentially beneficial to Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, WestJet and the Gander International Airport Authority as well as other Canadian air carriers and airport authorities that may consider voluntary implementation of the one-person-one-fare policy.”
The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent tribunal which operates like a court to render decisions on a case-by-case basis. The Agency’s jurisdiction with respect to persons with disabilities, stated in Part V of the Canada Transportation Act, is to ensure that persons with disabilities have proper access to effective transportation service. The Agency makes decisions and orders to eliminate undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities in the federal transportation network.
The Agency’s Decision No. 6-AT-A-2008 on the one-person-one-fare application may be viewed at www.cta.gc.ca. The Executive Summary, two backgrounders and a related news release may be found in the Media Room at www.cta.gc.ca.
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