Disability news

Air Canada is publicly shamed for its disservice to disabled travellers

An Air Canada aircraft

Air Canada has come under fire after a number of incidents involving disabled passengers made the headlines.

Dr Alessia Di Virgilio uses a wheelchair and needs a ventilator in order to breathe, she was secretly filmed in an undercover report having difficulty breathing on board one of the airline companies plans as part of an undercover report by CBC. She also had a lift dropped on her head by accident during the flight.

Virgilio told CBC she 'did not feel safe' flying from her home country of Toronto to Charlottetown.

During the flight untrained staff struggled to move her causing the passenger to become unattached to the ventilator on a number of occasions mid-air. The crew admitted they had not used the equipment ‘in probably seven years’.

Virgilio told CBC how ‘terrified’ she was and was hit in the head by a lift the staff were using onboard the plane.

She added: 'It was just such an overwhelming experience.… I just kind of shut down from there.'

Alessia Di Virgilio
Alessia Di Virgilio

Rodney Hodgins, who has cerebral palsy and requires a motorised wheelchair,  was forced to drag himself down an aisle on an Air Canada flight after the mobility assistance team failed to arrive to assist him off the plane.

The 49-year-old was on a flight from Las Vegas with his wife Denna celebrating their anniversary in August, but things did not go according to plan.

Hodgins had a ‘dehumanising’ experience when their flight touched down waiting for assistance staff to meet him at his seat.

When no one arrived the passenger had no option but to crouch down on all fours and crawl down the aisle because there was no wheelchair available.

Rodney Hodgins

Rodney Hodgins

Stand-up comedian Ryan Lachance said it was no laughing matter when he was left bed-ridden for three days after Air Canada crew accidently dropped him whilst carrying the passenger off the plane.

The 44-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, uses an eagle lift to move from his seat, but airline staff assured him they were able to assist him on their own accord.

Lachance told CBC: 'It was a massive struggle to get me out of the seat. I travel with a sling underneath me to make it easier for people to pick me up. They kept pulling that and it was hurting my body, bruising my back and my hip really bad.'

He was thrusted out of the chair falling onto the hard floor.

His personal assistance said:  'It was painful to watch, and it was painful for Ryan to experience. 

'The one guy that was holding him up on his shoulders did not have his shoulders [properly], and the guy who had his legs pulled, and Ryan just flew off the seat and landed on his butt.’

After 90 minutes he eventually made it off the aircraft only to be bedridden for the next three days.

Ryan Lachance

Ryan Lachance

Then there’s Harish Pant, 83, who died immediately after a flight suffering medical distress related to severe medical issues, the pilot refused to divert the plane and carried on to the destination which was nine hours away.

Pant left his family in Delhi to board an Air Canada flight in September with his daughter Shanu Pande, but woke up seven hours into the journey suffering severe chest pain.

Over the next few hours he developed back pain, vomiting, loss of bowel movement and was unable to stand.

Pande alerted the crew asking if they could divert the plane so her father could have potential life-saving medical assistance.

But they refused, the plane continued its trip to Canada where medics were waiting, but Pant passed away whilst they treated him.

Pande told Go Public: 'He was deteriorating in front of my eyes.

'He was at the mercy of the pilot and Air Canada people. They were inhumane and callous.’

 Harish Pant

Harish Pant

Comedian actor Simu Liu, who portrayed Shang-Chi in the 2021 Marvel movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, called out Air Canada on social media in March.

He wrote on Instagram: 'The good employees are truly great and the bad ones … well, they’re just some of the most unpleasant and miserable unprofessional human beings on the face of the earth.'

The four separate incidents have seen Canada’s minister of transport, Pablo Rodrizguez calling for the airline to ‘do better’.

He wrote on X: 'All Canadians must be treated with dignity and respect. Full stop.'

[ In February 2019, Air Canada mobile app incorporated session-replay software from the Israeli firm Glassbox. This software, without the users' informed consent, recorded users' activities and transmitted the data, including unredacted credit card data and passport numbers, to remote servers. ]

Related Articles