Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
    New Airline Policies Needed to Ensure Dignity and Safety for Passengers with Disabilities

    Sarah Morris-Probert, a former Paralympian and president of BC Adaptive Snow Sports, recently shared her disappointing experience when traveling with WestJet. Despite being assured that there would be a lift to assist her in boarding the plane, she discovered that the lift was simply two individuals carrying her in a heavy wheelchair up the steps. Morris-Probert expressed concern for her own safety and the potential risk for other wheelchair users who might not be able to handle such conditions.

    This incident is not an isolated case. In recent months, there have been other instances where airlines failed to provide adequate assistance to passengers with disabilities. Rodney Hodgins, who uses an electric wheelchair, had to drag himself down the aisle to disembark his Air Canada flight, while Angela Taylor, a 74-year-old amputee, was left stranded at the gate by Flair Airlines and had to walk to customs unassisted.

    It is disheartening that such incidents still occur in 2023. Passengers with disabilities deserve a seamless and dignified travel experience. While WestJet has apologized and acknowledged that there should have been a jet bridge available for Morris-Probert, it is essential for airlines to develop comprehensive policies and procedures to ensure the safety and well-being of all passengers.


    What is a jet bridge?
    A jet bridge is an enclosed movable connector that extends from the airport terminal gate to the aircraft, allowing passengers to board and disembark the plane without having to use stairs or go outside.

    What is an ambu-lift?
    An ambu-lift, also known as an aisle chair, is a narrow wheelchair specifically designed to maneuver through the narrow aisles of an aircraft. It is used to assist passengers with disabilities in reaching their seats.

    What measures should airlines take to accommodate passengers with disabilities?
    Airlines should ensure the availability of appropriate equipment, such as ramps and jet bridges, to facilitate the boarding and disembarkation process for passengers with disabilities. In addition, they should provide comprehensive training to their staff to handle the unique needs of these passengers and offer alternative options if the original plan cannot be executed.

    It is imperative that airlines take immediate action to review and enhance their policies to prevent such distressing incidents from occurring again. Passengers with disabilities should not have to face anxiety and uncertainty when traveling. By prioritizing the well-being and dignity of all passengers, airlines can contribute to creating an inclusive and accessible travel environment for everyone.