Canadian Transportation Agency proposes co-operation in implementing order

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OTTAWA - January 10, 2008 - The Canadian Transportation Agency has offered to facilitate a collaborative process to develop a screening process to implement the one-person-one-fare Decision it announced today for domestic air travel.

In a statement supplementing an order today to Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, WestJet and the Gander International Airport Authority, the Agency said all affected parties would benefit from working out common terms of compliance with Agency Decision No. 6-AT-A-2008.

"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.

"This approach could include input from the medical community, the community of persons with disabilities and other interested parties. It would offer an opportunity to consider other practices and operational experiences, as well as examination of alternative ways that the objectives set out in the Agency's Decision can be operationalized.

"The Canadian Transportation Agency is prepared to facilitate a consultative process with Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet if they believe it would assist them in determining how best to put the one-person-one-fare policy into practice."

The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent Government of Canada tribunal which operates like a court. Among its responsibilities, the Agency must facilitate the implementation of an effective and efficient federal transportation network. It deals with issues such as the removal of undue obstacles to persons with disabilities. 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.

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The Agency's Decision No. 6-AT-A-2008 on the one-person-one-fare application can be viewed at www.otc-cta.gc.ca. The Executive Summary, two backgrounders and a related news release may be found in the Media Room at www.otc-cta.gc.ca.

For further information, please contact:

News Media Enquiries: Jadrino Huot at 819-953-9957
General Public Enquiries: info@otc-cta.gc.ca; 1-888-222-2592

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BACKGROUNDER

One-person-one-fare policy

The Canadian Transportation Agency has ordered Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet to implement a one-person-one-fare policy for persons with severe disabilities on flights within Canada.

The three airlines have one year to implement the policy, which applies to domestic air services. It does not apply to domestic segments of transborder and international trips.

The Agency's Decision No. 6-AT-A-2008 means that the airlines may not charge more than one fare to persons with disabilities who are required by the airlines' domestic tariffs to be accompanied by an attendant for their personal care or safety on flights, or who require additional seating for themselves for air travel, including those disabled by obesity.

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;

  • Persons who are obese but not disabled by their obesity.

The Agency estimates that 80,600 persons with disabilities who travel by air will be eligible to benefit from the policy based on the Decision, which for purposes of domestic travel represents 0.32 per cent of the domestic air passenger traffic carried by Air Canada and WestJet.

Based on evidence from all parties involved and expert witnesses, the Agency concluded that implementation of a one-person-one-fare policy works out to an estimated annual cost, based on 2005 data, of $7.1 million for Air Canada and $1.5 million for WestJet. This represents 0.09 per cent of Air Canada's passenger revenues of $8.2 billion and 0.16 per cent of WestJet's equivalent revenues of $1.4 billion.

This is equivalent to a revenue loss for Air Canada of 41 cents per trip across its 17.1 million domestic trips and 16 cents for WestJet across its 9.1 million domestic trips.

Considering the response of the carriers' "yield management systems" to the policy, the Agency estimates the price of the average domestic Air Canada fare may increase by 77 cents and by 44 cents for the average WestJet fare.

Three longstanding principles cited as particularly relevant to this Decision are the right of persons with disabilities:

  • to full participation in all aspects of society and equal access to transportation;

  • to suffer no economic disadvantage or pay more for their transportation services than other passengers;

  • to treatment in the same manner regardless of the underlying reason for their disability.

The Decision flows from the Agency's legislative mandate to remove "undue obstacles" to the mobility of persons with disabilities and it is consistent with the recent Supreme Court of Canada direction to the Agency to apply the same human rights test as is applied under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The January 13, 2006 Federal Court of Appeal decision in Linda McKay-Panos v. Air Canada confirmed that a person who is obese may be disabled for purposes of air travel if unable to fit in an airline seat.

In today's Decision, the Agency has determined that only a small group of obese domestic air travellers, only those who are severely obese, would be eligible under a one-person-one-fare policy.

The Agency has also determined that eligibility for the policy must be assessed by the air carriers on a case-by-case basis.

The Gander International Airport Authority was also a respondent in the case. The Agency concluded that the Gander Airport Authority also failed to produce evidence to demonstrate that implementation of a one-person-one-fare policy will impose undue hardship on it. Accordingly, the authority was ordered not to charge its airport improvement fee, currently $20, for attendants.

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The Agency's Decision No. 6-AT-A-2008 on the one-person-one-fare application may be viewed at www.otc-cta.gc.ca. The Executive Summary, a backgrounder on the application and two news releases may be found in the Media Room at www.otc-cta.gc.ca.

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