Direction provided to Air Canada to accommodate travellers disabled by peanut or nut allergies

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Ottawa – June 16, 2011 – The Canadian Transportation Agency today issued its final decision addressing Air Canada's accommodation of passengers disabled by an allergy to peanuts or nuts, and setting out its assessment of Air Canada's undue hardship arguments.

In a preliminary January 2010 decision, the Agency found that buffer zones are the appropriate accommodation for persons aboard aircraft who are disabled due to their allergy to peanuts or nuts. Air Canada was required to provide submissions on buffer zones and on the advance notice to be provided by travellers requiring this form of accommodation.

In a subsequent October 2010 decision, the Agency provided further direction to Air Canada on how to accommodate travellers with a disability due to peanut or nut allergies.

Following the October decision, Air Canada agreed to create a buffer zone for such passengers when at least 48 hours advance notice is provided. Air Canada also agreed to provide a briefing to passengers within the buffer zone.

However, Air Canada filed undue hardship arguments with respect to the requirement to serve only peanut and nut-free foods within the buffer zone, as there are currently no flight kitchens available to deliver on this guarantee.

In today's decision, the Agency accepts that Air Canada cannot guarantee that snacks or meals served in the buffer zone will be entirely free of traces of peanuts or nuts because of the risk of cross-contamination. Given this, the Agency agrees that persons with a disability due to a peanut or nut allergy may prefer to bring their own snacks or meals.

At the same time, the Agency finds that Air Canada did not meet its burden of proof to demonstrate it will create undue hardship on Air Canada to accommodate such persons by serving, within the buffer zone, snacks and meals that do not contain peanuts or nuts as visible or known components.

Consequently, within the buffer zone, Air Canada is required to serve only snacks and meals which do not contain peanuts or nuts as visible or known components. The Agency accepts that these may contain traces of peanuts or nuts as a result of cross-contamination.

Air Canada is also required to provide a briefing to other passengers within the buffer zone that they must not eat peanuts or nuts or foods which contain peanuts or nuts and will only be served snacks and meals which do not contain peanuts or nuts as visible or known components.

Taking into consideration the findings in today's Decision, together with Air Canada's acceptance to implement part of the order set out in the October Decision, Air Canada is now also required to implement the new measures set out above within 30 days from the date of this Decision.

About the Canadian Transportation Agency

The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent administrative body of the Government of Canada. It performs two key functions within the federal transportation system:

  • As a quasi-judicial tribunal, the Agency, informally and through formal adjudication, resolves a range of commercial and consumer transportation-related disputes, including accessibility issues for persons with disabilities. It operates like a court when adjudicating disputes.
  • As an economic regulator, the Agency makes determinations and issues authorities, licences and permits to transportation carriers under federal jurisdiction.

See the backgrounder on Decision 228-AT-A-2011 for more on the Agency's process and previous decisions in this case.

For more information:

Media Relations
Canadian Transportation Agency

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