By The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — Air Canada has acknowledged it violated Canadian disability regulations and apologized to a British Columbia man who uses a wheelchair, after he was forced to drag himself off a flight in Las Vegas this summer.
Prince George resident Rodney Hodgins said he used the strength of his upper body to pull himself down the airplane aisle in August, while his wife, Deanna, held his legs, after no one from the airline’s third-party ground personnel was available to help.
The man’s story has generated national and international attention. On Friday, federal Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez issued a statement saying he had summoned Air Canada representatives to meet with him and Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities Kamal Khera next week.
He said the airline must present a plan to address multiple incidents involving travellers with disabilities
“I was horrified to learn about another incident on an Air Canada flight,” he said.
“All Canadians must be treated with dignity and respect. Full stop.”
Hodgins, who can’t walk due to spastic cerebral palsy, said in an interview last month that a flight attendant told him he would have to get himself off the airplane, an experience that left him feeling violated.
Beenish Awan, a special assistance representative with Air Canada, sent a letter to Deanna Hodgins this week saying the incident “was a very inconvenient and humiliating experience for both of you.”
“Based on the information we currently have available; we have to regrettably admit that Air Canada was in violation of the disability regulations,” the letter says.
“I reiterate my genuine apologies for disappointing you.”
Air Canada has faced increased scrutiny over its treatment of disabled passengers.
Canada’s chief accessibility officer Stephanie Cadieux, posted on social media in October that Air Canada forgot her wheelchair on a cross-Canada flight.
In Parliament Monday, Bonita Zarrillo, the NDP critic for disability inclusion, said Hodgins’ situation was degrading and a violation of his human rights.
Rodriguez replied that Hodgins deserves to be treated with dignity and with respect and Canadians expect more from Air Canada.
Deanna Hodgins said in an interview Friday that she and her husband continue to push for improvements in how disabled travellers are treated, including faster support for people who need help on and off a plane.