Decision No. 120-AT-A-1998

March 30, 1998

IN THE MATTER OF Decision No. 512-A-1997 dated August 19, 1997 wherein the Agency ruled on a complaint filed by Lucie Lemieux-Brassard; and

IN THE MATTER OF a hearing held in Montréal, Quebec from September 24 to September 26, 1997.

File No.: 
U3570-96-21

TRIBUNAL

Mrs. Marian L. Robson Chairman of the Panel, Canadian Transportation Agency

Mr. Jean Patenaude Vice-Chairman, Canadian Transportation Agency

Mr. Keith Penner Member, Canadian Transportation Agency

Mr. Richard Cashin Member, Canadian transportation Agency

PARTICIPANTS

Ms. Elizabeth Barker Counsel, Canadian Transportation Agency

Mr. Louis Gautier Counsel, Canadian Transportation Agency

Ms. Lucie Lemieux-Brassard

Mr. David Baker Counsel for Ms. Lucie Lemieux-Brassard

Mr. Eric Norman President, Council of Canadians with Disabilities

Mr. Kenneth Fredeen Counsel for Canadi*n

Ms. Debbie Paul Canadi*n

Mr. Marcel Rondeau

Ms. Jean Haldane

Mr. Hugh Peck

Mr. William Bickell

Mr. Michael Farrell

Mr. Patrick Cahill

Mr. Malcolm McRae

Ms. Louise-Hélène Sénécal Counsel for Air Canada and Air Nova

Ms. Susan Welscheid Air Canada

Mr. Pierre Hamel

Ms. Chantal Stanyer

Ms. Elizabeth Chown

Mr. Robert Blake

Ms. L. Cindy Heinke

Ms. Sylvie LePage

Mr. Gary Stuart Stockfish

Ms. Chantal Baril

Ms. Jane McGregor

Ms. Donna Burgess Air Nova

Mr. Bob Campbell

Ms. Roxanne Butler

Ms. Michèle Tremblay Kéroul

Mr. Alain Chaurette

INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND

On January 9, 1997, the Canadian Transportation Agency (hereinafter the Agency) received a complaint from Lucie Lemieux-Brassard, a person with a disability who uses an electric wheelchair, regarding difficulties she experienced while travelling across Canada in August 1996 as an observer on the Federal Task Force on Disability Issues. The carriers involved were:

  • I.M.P. Group Limited carrying on business as Air Atlantic, a division of I.M.P. Group Limited (hereinafter Air Atlantic);
  • Air BC Limited carrying on business as AirBC (hereinafter AirBC);
  • Air Canada;
  • Air Nova Inc. (hereinafter Air Nova);
  • Canadian Airlines International Ltd. carrying on business under the firm name and style of either Canadian Airlines International or Canadi*n (hereinafter Canadi*n);
  • Bradley Air Services Limited carrying on business as First Air and/or Ptarmigan Airways (hereinafter First Air); an
  • Northwest Territorial Airways Ltd. carrying on business as NWT Air (hereinafter NWT Air).

Ms. Lemieux-Brassard stated that she encountered obstacles on 14 of the 17 flights she took over an 18-day period, and that the carriers did not meet various requirements set out in the federal Air Transportation Regulations, SOR/88-58, as amended (hereinafter ATR) and the Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations (hereinafter the Training Regulations). Based on her experience, Ms. Lemieux-Brassard claimed that the training of airline personnel is inadequate.

After its investigation, the Agency found that on 10 of those flights operated by Air Canada, Air Nova and Canadi*n, there were seven contraventions of the ATR when Ms. Lemieux-Brassard was denied the following services:

  • boarding assistance;
  • prompt and adequate repair of her wheelchair which was damaged in transit;
  • prompt and proper assistance with the dismantling of her wheelchair;
  • assistance in the terminal while she was in transit; and
  • a suitable temporary replacement wheelchair as a result of the delayed delivery of her wheelchair batteries.

There were also 15 undue obstacles to Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's mobility involving these carriers. Such obstacles occurred when:

  • Air Canada
    • would not board her on a reserved flight;
    • denied her request for a particular seat assignment; and
    • failed to repair her wheelchair promptly.
  • Air Nova
    • began the regular boarding of passengers before pre-boarding was completed; and
    • did not communicate directly with her.
  • Canadi*n
    • did not provide proper assistance in disconnecting her wheelchair batteries;
    • on two occasions, did not communicate directly with her;
    • did not assist her to reach the boarding area of a connecting flight;
    • provided a manual wheelchair without outer rims as a temporary replacement for her non-operable electric wheelchair;
    • did not carry her wheelchair batteries on her flight;
    • did not make arrangements for the repairs to her damaged wheelchair;
    • did not keep her informed on measures which affected her;
    • damaged her wheelchair during transit; and
    • contracted security personnel performed an improper security search.

As a result of the findings made by the Agency concerning the seven carriers involved in this complaint, the Agency, in Decision No. 512-A-1997 dated August 19, 1997, ordered various measures to correct certain problems experienced by Ms. Lemieux-Brassard.

The Agency ordered that Air Canada reimburse Ms. Lemieux-Brassard the cost of long distance telephone calls, which she incurred when the carrier did not board her on a reserved flight. Because of her delayed departure, the telephone calls were necessary to rearrange all ground transportation and other arrangements at her destination.

In addition, as a result of Air Canada's failure to repair her wheelchair promptly, the carrier was to ensure that employees who come in contact with passengers with disabilities upon deplaning are trained to direct them to the baggage claims area, where the carrier will handle wheelchair damage claims. Air Canada was also required to submit confirmation of this training and a schedule identifying when employees will receive the training.

As a result of the security search performed by Canadi*n's contracted security personnel, during which a female security officer felt Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's legs and lifted her skirt in front of others, Canadi*n was required to advise the Agency of the measures implemented to ensure contracted security personnel receive sensitivity training.

In addition, Canadi*n was required to submit its procedures concerning the regulatory requirement of providing, when necessary, a suitable temporary replacement wheelchair in Whitehorse. The manual wheelchair provided by Canadi*n caused Ms. Lemieux-Brassard to be completely dependent on others for her mobility.

When deplaning from an Air Atlantic BAE146 aircraft at Gate 8B of the Dorval airport, two Canadi*n employees fell and dropped Ms. Lemieux-Brassard while manually carrying her down one set of stairs, which caused her a sore shoulder. The gate assignment, in this instance, was not found by the Agency to be an undue obstacle to her mobility. However, in light of adjustments that were being implemented at Gate 8B to allow same-level boarding and deplaning of passengers to/from a BAE146 aircraft, Canadi*n was requested to submit a report on the progress being made with this corrective measure.

With respect to First Air, Ms. Lemieux-Brassard was told by Rider Travel that she could not travel directly from Whitehorse to Yellowknife with the carrier because the aircraft used could not accommodate a passenger using a wheelchair. She was required to make connections in Vancouver and Edmonton to reach Yellowknife, which took her approximately 12 hours. While other travel options are available with First Air in such situations, Ms. Lemieux-Brassard was not made aware of them because the carrier was not informed by the travel agent in advance that she travelled with a wheelchair. During the review of this issue, the Agency learned that First Air's computer reservation system, due to space constraints, contained limited information for its employees and travel agents concerning its policies and procedures on the transportation of persons with disabilities. However, First Air was in the process of correcting this situation by upgrading to the SABRE computer reservation system, which will allow it to input more information on this topic.

The Agency found that these corrective measures should ensure that future travellers with disabilities are provided with complete and accurate information from travel agents and First Air employees. The Agency therefore requested that First Air keep the Agency informed on the progress being made in its efforts to upgrade its computer reservation system. The Agency also requested First Air to submit a copy of the additional information concerning the transportation of persons with disabilities that it proposes to include in the new SABRE system.

The responses of Air Canada, Canadi*n and First Air to Decision No. 512-A-1997, and the Agency findings in this respect, are addressed in Section 4.

The Agency also concluded that the many incidents in this case implied a lack of effectiveness of the employee training programs provided by Air Canada, Air Nova and Canadi*n. Therefore, the Agency decided to hold a hearing to assess what additional measures may be required to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

A Notice of Hearing was issued by the Agency on August 19, 1997, reflecting the Agency's intention to hold a hearing in Montréal, Quebec with Air Canada, Air Nova, Canadi*n and Ms. Lemieux-Brassard.

THE TERMS OF REFERENCE

On September 3, 1997, the Terms of Reference for the hearing were finalized by the Agency following consultations with the parties. The Terms of Reference required the parties to be prepared to address the issue of corrective measures at the hearing, including the following specific matters:

  • What has been their experience in meeting the requirements of the ATR, Part VII - Terms and Conditions of Carriage of Persons [with Disabilities]. For example,
    • in the development and implementation of procedures;
    • how employees were made aware of these regulatory obligations;
    • how does management monitor compliance with the ATR;
    • what corrective practices are in place when the ATR are not followed.
  • What has been their experience in meeting the requirements of the Training Regulations. For example,
    • who was involved in the development and implementation of the training program;
    • what were the problems encountered in implementing the Training Regulations;
    • how is the effectiveness of training sessions monitored;
    • how does the organization ensure ongoing compliance with the Training Regulations;
    • what has been employees' reaction to receiving sensitivity and awareness training.
  • What is the perception of the effectiveness of the current Agency complaint process.
  • What do carriers do with complaints brought directly to their attention, for example, are these centralized in a data bank and are these complaints used as case studies in training sessions.
  • What solutions have been found to deal with problems that have arisen.

Prior to the hearing, Air Canada, Air Nova, Canadi*n and Ms. Lemieux-Brassard submitted a list of witnesses who would be present at the hearing. The carrier witnesses included employees and representatives of Kéroul, an organization that specializes in tourism for persons with disabilities and that has extensive experience in air travel. Kéroul was involved in the development of Air Canada's training program. The witness for Ms. Lemieux-Brassard was Mr. Eric Norman who is the President of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.

Following the close of the hearing, a written submission was accepted from the Canadian Automobile Workers, Airline Local 1990 (hereinafter CAW) and written closing arguments were filed by the parties.

AGENCY JURISDICTION

Under the Canada Transportation Act, S.C., 1996, c. 10 (hereinafter CTA) the Agency has the responsibility to ensure that persons with disabilities can obtain access to the country's transportation system by eliminating undue obstacles. As well, the Agency has the power to inquire into issues related to these matters. Should the Agency find that an undue obstacle exists, the Agency may require that corrective measures be taken or direct that compensation be paid for any expenses incurred by a person with a disability because of the undue obstacle, or both.

THE DECISION

This Decision summarizes the information gathered during the hearing in Montréal as well as the subsequent submissions made by the parties. In addition, the Decision addresses the corrective measures taken by various carriers as a result of the Agency's Decision No. 512-A-1997.

Section 1, "An Overview of the Applicable Regulations", outlines the basic requirements of the two regulations in question, Part VII of the ATR and the Training Regulations.

Section 2, "Submissions in response to the Terms of Reference", gives an overview of the information provided by the parties in response to the Terms of Reference, as well as the submission filed by CAW following the hearing.

Section 3, "Areas for Concern", identifies the areas in air travel where problems are most frequently encountered by persons with disabilities and includes Agency views and opinions on what further improvements could be made in these areas.

Section 4, "Carrier Responses to Decision No. 512-A-1997_e.html">512-A-1997", summarizes the actions taken by Air Canada, Canadi*n and First Air following the Agency's earlier Decision in Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's case, along with the Agency's findings on the actions taken by these carriers.

Section 5, "Conclusion", outlines the further corrective measures found necessary by the Agency.

Section 6, "The Road Ahead", outlines the initiatives taken by the Agency, the air industry and the community of persons with disabilities to assist in the removal of undue obstacles to persons with disabilities.

SECTION 1 AN OVERVIEW OF THE APPLICABLE REGULATIONS

PART VII OF THE AIR TRANSPORTATION REGULATIONS

In September 1993, the National Transportation Agency (hereinafter the NTA) made amendments to the ATR by adding Part VII. This Part, which deals with the terms and conditions of carriage of persons with disabilities, and which took effect in January 1994, sets out the services that air carriers must provide to persons with disabilities who travel domestically on aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats. When a request is made at least 48 hours prior to departure, a carrier must provide additional services which include certain in-flight services as well as assisting with registering at the check-in counter, proceeding to the boarding area, boarding and deplaning. A reasonable effort must be made to accommodate requests not made within this time limit.

Certain services do not require advance notice. For example, upon request at the time of reservation, air carriers must describe the services they provide to persons with disabilities. Moreover, prior to assigning a seat to a person who identifies the nature of his/her disability, the air carrier must indicate which seats are most accessible to that person. Where possible, accessible seats are to be the last seats assigned to passengers without disabilities. Carriers must also furnish a written confirmation of the services that the carrier will provide.

In most cases, air carriers have to carry mobility aids and other devices free of charge as priority baggage. Where mobility aids cannot be carried in the passenger cabin, carriers must disassemble them for carriage and promptly reassemble and return them at the person's destination. If a mobility aid is damaged during carriage or is not available at destination, carriers have to provide a suitable temporary replacement without charge. Carriers are also responsible for repairing a damaged mobility aid or for reimbursing the person for the full replacement cost of the aid if it cannot be repaired or is lost.

When an air carrier receives a complaint in respect of the services set out in the ATR, and it is unable to respond to the complaint to the satisfaction of the person, the ATR require the carrier to promptly inform the person that he/she may file an application for inquiry with the Agency.

PERSONNEL TRAINING FOR THE ASSISTANCE OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES REGULATIONS

In January 1994, the NTA made regulations known as the Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations. These Regulations took effect in January 1995, thus allowing carriers and terminal operators one year in which to train their employees and contractors to provide suitable transportation-related services to persons with disabilities. For example, carrier employees who interact with the public or make decisions respecting the carriage of persons with disabilities have to know the carrier's policies and procedures with respect to these persons. They also have to receive general sensitivity training to be able to identify and respond to the needs of persons with disabilities while they travel.

In addition, carrier employees required to provide physical assistance to persons with disabilities have to receive training to be able to properly transfer a person with a disability to and from a wheelchair. Carriers also have to ensure that an appropriate level of training is provided to employees who handle mobility aids. They must be familiar with the procedures for securing, carrying and stowing mobility aids, including methods of disassembling, packaging, unpackaging and assembling these aids.

The Training Regulations stipulate that employees must complete their initial training within 60 days after the commencement of their duties and must receive periodic refresher training sessions. In addition, carriers are to keep their training programs current by incorporating any new information on procedures and services to assist persons with disabilities.

SECTION 2 SUBMISSIONS IN RESPONSE TO THE TERMS OF REFERENCE

MS. LEMIEUX-BRASSARD

Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's summary of evidence submitted in response to the Terms of Reference emphasized that despite the requirements to provide services to persons with disabilities contained in the ATR and the Training Regulations, persons with disabilities continue to experience problems when travelling.

Ms. Lemieux-Brassard maintains that these problems are not isolated incidents. She submitted that the number of complaints filed with the Agency is merely the tip of the iceberg. The number understates the extent of the problem for three major reasons: persons with disabilities are not aware of the Agency's complaint process and are not so informed by airline personnel; many persons with disabilities, though aware of their rights, may feel that the limited compensation available or the inconvenience involved does not warrant seeking redress from the airline or the Agency; or offers made to passengers who have experienced problems, such as seat and accommodation upgrades or free tickets, appease the passengers thus reducing the likelihood that a complaint will be filed and the necessary systemic changes will occur.

Ms. Lemieux-Brassard is of the opinion that in order to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents, the following measures must be taken:

  • establish clear standards;
  • train staff to ensure they understand what the standards are and what procedures are to be followed;
  • ensure that there is adequate staffing to permit employees to meet standards by following proper procedures;
  • monitor staff performance; and
  • administer sanctions when employees do not provide services in accordance with standards.

Ms. Lemieux-Brassard also suggests that these corrective measures should include that:

  • airlines be required to provide up-to-date information on the location of check-in facilities at airports where persons with disabilities would be checking in;
  • airlines be required to include among their "accessible" designated seats, a number of bulkhead seats as well as seats close to a washroom;
  • airlines be required to develop an information pamphlet for persons with disabilities explaining the procedures and options for repair and replacement of mobility aids;
  • persons with disabilities be informed by airline personnel of the Agency's complaint process;
  • Canadi*n add improved modules to its existing training program concerning personnel sensitivity and wheelchair handling;
  • Air Canada and Canadi*n survey all employees and contractors to ensure successful completion of the required training;
  • airlines conduct refresher training at least every two years;
  • airlines retain independent consultants to conduct a statistical customer satisfaction survey;
  • airline booking systems ensure that travel agents can provide passengers with disabilities advance accessible seating assignment without the requirement to obtain a Meda Desk approval; and
  • airlines should have adequate staffing levels to avoid persons with disabilities being made to feel like burdens when they are provided with services prescribed under the ATR.

WHAT HAS BEEN CARRIER EXPERIENCE IN MEETING THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE AIR TRANSPORTATION REGULATIONS, PART VII

Air Canada and Canadi*n presented as witnesses, managers and employees involved in the day-to-day provision of services to all passengers, including travellers with disabilities. Air Canada submits that Air Nova, in general, uses the same personnel training program as the one used by Air Canada. As such, Air Nova was permitted to adopt the evidence presented by Air Canada.

Air Canada and Air Nova

Experience in Development and Implementation of Procedures

Air Canada submits that the services required by the ATR to be provided to persons with disabilities are services that it did provide to these travellers prior to the enactment of Part VII of the ATR. In fact, the only modification required upon enactment of Part VII of the ATR was the requirement to describe and list the services to be provided in the carrier's timetable.

Making Employees Aware of the Regulatory Obligations

To make employees aware of Part VII of the ATR, information was provided to all carrier branches affected by the enactment of the ATR. Various methods of notification are used to ensure continued employee awareness of regulatory obligations; for example, by the inclusion of this information in the computer system, the customer service newsletter, the daily computer bulletins and the company-wide publication called Horizons.

Monitoring Compliance with Regulations and Taking of Corrective Measures

Air Canada advises that it monitors regularly, through a variety of mechanisms, compliance with regulations. For instance, each flight has an in-charge flight attendant. It is the responsibility of this attendant to file a report on any incident regardless of whether a complaint is filed. These reports, in accordance with Air Canada's Quality Assurance Program, are reviewed regularly as well as in the twice yearly meeting with in-charge flight agents when performance and complaints are discussed. Another example was provided with regard to the Airport Customer Service Area. There is a daily review of incidents which occurred the previous day. Where an incident is found to have been of an isolated nature or a unique occurrence, no further action is taken. However, if it is determined that there is a problem, whether that be a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge on how to deal with a particular situation, solutions are found which could include refresher training. Air Canada stated that it issues bulletins to employees and training instructors so that they are made aware of incidents. These examples can then be used in future training.

In instances where an employee makes a mistake in failing to provide services in accordance with the ATR, Air Canada's view is that a threat of a sanction is not the answer. A threat of sanction could discourage employees from reporting incidents, thus resulting in a lost opportunity to seek resolutions and for others to learn from different situations. Furthermore, Air Canada and Air Nova employees are unionized and, as such, sanctions could only be utilized through the regular processes provided for in the collective agreements.

Canadi*n

Experience in Development and Implementation of the Procedures

Canadi*n submits that it has gone through a long period of instability and financial constraints. Notwithstanding this background, Canadi*n states that its track record in meeting the requirements of the ATR, while not perfect, is strong. It based this determination on the number and type of complaints submitted to the Agency, the number of issues and concerns raised with its Customer Relations, and observations made by its employees.

Canadi*n submits that it provides all services as required under the ATR. The carrier puts the list of services to be provided pursuant to the ATR into its computer reservation system, SABRE, and into its Customer Service Manual for its reservation and airport agents.

Making Employees Aware of the Regulatory Obligations

To ensure employees are and remain aware of the regulatory obligations:

  • reference is made to the ATR in the training syllabus for reservation and airport agents;
  • customer service leads are provided with refresher training which includes reference to obligations under the ATR in the syllabus;
  • there are references to the ATR in the SABRE system, which is available to all airline employees;
  • there are prompts to the ATR built into the SABRE system for quick reference; and
  • refresher training includes a review of regulatory obligations.
Monitoring Compliance with Regulations and Taking of Corrective Measures

Canadi*n submits that the monitoring taking place through customer service leads, employees involved in training, and airport management staff is sufficient for the purpose of ensuring compliance with regulations.

Canadi*n's policy in dealing with any customer service failure is to identify the performance deficiency and to take steps to try to correct it. Those steps would include initial coaching of the employee by the customer service lead as to the proper procedures and to make sure that the person is aware of its responsibilities. If there is a recurring problem, there are progressive steps which could be taken with that employee through re-coaching or retraining. If the problem persists, the disciplinary process as per the collective agreements will be initiated.

WHAT HAS BEEN CARRIER EXPERIENCE IN MEETING THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE PERSONNEL TRAINING FOR THE ASSISTANCE OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES REGULATIONS

Air Canada and Air Nova

Development and Implementation of the Training Program

Air Canada submits that its training program for providing services to persons with disabilities was in existence at Air Canada prior to the enactment of the Training Regulations.

In 1993, an official at Air Canada took charge of the training program at the corporate level, as inconsistent messages were being received on how services were to be delivered at different stations. It was decided to redevelop a refresher training that would ensure that the message was consistent, whether the training was being done in Canada or the United States of America.

The carrier entered a copy of its training program as an exhibit. The following is an overview of the information submitted.

The program, entitled "Serving Customers with Disabilities", was designed by Kéroul and is made up of four modules. All affected employees are given Module 1 and, depending on their job function, will receive, in addition, Module 2, 3 and/or 4.

Module 1, "Sensitivity Awareness Education", focuses on the use of proper terminology, identification of various disabilities and how to meet the needs of persons with these disabilities. The training is conducted entirely by persons with disabilities, either Air Canada employees or outside consultants. Part of the training involves a video which has people with various disabilities and needs travelling through an airport and which highlights the obstacles that can be encountered and how employees can best serve these passengers. Following the showing of the video, there is a discussion with the employees.

Module 2, "Movement and Transfer Methods for Customers with Mobility Impairments," is given to flight attendants, passenger agents at the airport and aircraft services employees (the personnel responsible for loading and off-loading the aircraft). This module addresses transfer techniques and was developed by Kéroul with the help of an expert from the Centre de réhabilitation de Montréal.

Module 3, "Description, Handling and Loading of Wheelchairs", is given to flight attendants, customer sales and service agents, station attendants, and sky-cap porter assistants and includes hands-on training where employees get to practice assembling and disassembling wheelchairs and disconnecting and packaging batteries.

Module 4, "Passenger Access Lift", is given to station attendants, customer sales and service agents, and third party ground handling airline personnel. This module provides training on the use of the passenger access lift devices used to board aircraft.

Air Canada advises that, in the training sessions, real life travel situations are discussed and, with the exception of Module 4, participants are provided with student guides which they get to keep after the training. The student guide contains the main points covered in the training session, space for note-taking and appendices with additional information for reference purposes. The training sessions use training tools, such as airport wheelchairs, different types of manual and electric wheelchairs, and actual transfers within an aircraft.

Problems with Implementation of the Training Regulations

Air Canada states that it did not encounter problems with the implementation of the regulations with the exception of some trainers with disabilities not being able to get to the training sessions because of problems with the local municipal ground transportation.

Monitoring Effectiveness / Ensuring Compliance with Regulations / Employee Reaction

Air Canada advises that a survey is conducted at the end of each training session, and the results of those surveys indicated the overwhelming satisfaction of employees who receive the training.

There is a Training Department which sets up schedules and tracks all employee training. It was also noted that sensitivity awareness training is reviewed yearly as part of an annual training program for Air Canada's flight attendants. As for the rest of the employees, it is intended that each employee should receive refresher training every two years.

Perception of Agency's Complaint Process

Both Air Canada and Air Nova would prefer to deal with complaints through their own processes and not through the Agency. The airlines believe that the timely filing of a complaint directly with the airlines provides for the possibility to investigate as soon as possible and take the corrective measures that are necessary. Moreover, the timely submissions of complaints ensures that documents relevant to the carriers' investigations are still available. Air Canada submits that it would be preferable if the Agency referred complainants directly to the carrier.

What is done with complaints brought to attention of the carrier

Air Canada and Air Nova have centralized their customer complaints in a data bank and examples of actual complaints are used in the training sessions. The carriers point out that their training programs are not a static process; they evolve as needs change and as certain factors are brought to their attention.

What solutions have been found to deal with problems which have arisen

When Air Canada implements flight schedule changes for its winter and summer seasons, its airport employees have the opportunity to bid on different jobs in the airports. There is therefore a high employee turnover. However, Air Canada has implemented a project in Canada's three busiest airports, Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, where a specially trained team is charged with providing the special services. This frees the other agents to perform their regular duties, and it also better addresses the problem of employee turnover.

Canadi*n

Development and Implementation of the Training Program

Canadi*n advises that it prepared and implemented a training program for assisting persons with disabilities in 1991, well before the Training Regulations came into effect. Therefore, many of its employees were trained before the effective date of the Training Regulations. The training program was a result of work that was being done by the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) and the NTA to improve the accessibility of air travel. In the development of its training program, Canadi*n held customer forums with people with disabilities.

Three Canadi*n employees with mobility impairments were involved in the development of the program. The initial course was developed and was given to its field trainers, known as the customer service leads. An additional customer forum was held and customers were questioned on the level of service they received, and suggestions for improvements were sought to enhance the course.

Canadi*n has 10 instructors/developers and approximately 10 customer field trainers at Halifax, Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Ottawa airports. The instructors train the field trainers who then train the airport customer service agents. Canadi*n delivered the first course to these agents in October 1991.

Canadi*n notes that it has sold its training program to third parties for use within the United States of America and Canada.

The carrier entered a copy of its training program as an exhibit. The following is an overview of the information provided.

The program is entitled "Assisting Customers with Disabilities", and is targeted to airport customer service agents who perform check-in and boarding duties. The program is composed of sections covering general sensitivity, lifting and transfer techniques, handling of dangerous goods, basic wheelchair components, the operation of mechanized boarding devices and stretcher handling. Teaching aids include a training video, handouts, in-class demonstrations, transfers within an aircraft cabin, and wheelchairs. The method of instruction includes role plays, lectures, a video, and practice.

The prerequisite for attending the "Assisting Customers with Disabilities" course is a general knowledge of the carrier's policies and procedures for acceptance and airport handling of customers with disabilities. Prior to attending the course, airport customer service agents receive training on the SABRE system as part of their initial airport training. They review various references in Focus, the reference system in the SABRE system.

The objective of the "Assisting Customers with Disabilities" course is to have airport customer service agents identify a passenger's disability, determine what assistance is required, and safely and comfortably provide that assistance. In addition to the general sensitivity training, specific technical training is provided to the customer service agents at airports. This training includes how to assist customers with special needs; how to communicate with persons with various disabilities; guiding techniques for blind passengers; transfer and lifting techniques; wheelchair handling; assisting elderly customers and persons with service animals.

This generic training is not offered to other employee groups. Currently, the reservation agent training focuses on lectures, questions and answers on material covered, and retrieving information from the computer system. There is no involvement of a person with a disability in this training. Canadi*n states, however, that it may be a good idea to do so.

Cargo and ramp personnel receive specific training in the handling of dangerous goods, the carrier's policies and procedures for the handling of electrically powered mobility devices, the use of mechanized access lifts and the handling of stretchers. However, Canadi*n indicates that it provides very general instruction on the assembly and disassembly of electric wheelchairs due to the many different types that exist. In addition, Canadi*n states that most employees do not receive hands-on training on how to disassemble and assemble mobility aids.

Flight attendants take a St. John Ambulance qualification course and participate in workshops titled Passenger Handling of Special Needs Customers and Dignified Handling of Special Needs Customers, as well as a compulsory annual training in the safety procedures for handling passengers, including persons with disabilities, as prescribed by Transport Canada training standards.

Canadi*n states that, prior starting their functions, all employees receive training in their respective fields.

In addition to the in-class training, Canadi*n explains that it alerts employees of procedural changes through its SABRE system. When agents enter the system, there is a sign-in prompt, which is a bulletin that refers them to the Focus manual within the SABRE system where the new procedure is explained. While an agent can choose to disregard the prompt, Canadi*n is able to determine the number of times per month that a particular Focus reference is accessed. Furthermore, it is possible to attach questions to a bulletin and generate reports to determine how many employees at each base have answered the questions, and what they scored. It would also be possible to place a time limit for the completion of questions. However, it is still possible for someone to sign in and not answer the questions, but their name will appear on the report as not having done it.

Some airport managers have taken the "Assisting Customers with Disabilities" course when they had front-line responsibilities. However, Canadi*n implemented changes which resulted in these responsibilities being transferred to customer service leads instead. Now that airport managers are no longer doing front line work, there is no mandatory requirement that they receive this training. Canadi*n now considers airport managers to be in administrative positions. However, there may be occasions when managers would be involved with issues concerning persons with disabilities. Therefore, Canadi*n agrees that it should consider providing training concerning the transportation of persons with disabilities to this group of employees.

Problems with Implementation of the Training Regulations

Canadi*n submits that one of the biggest challenges it faced in recent years was maintaining services in the uncertainty surrounding its financial situation since it was very difficult for employees to focus on their jobs. At the same time, Canadi*n was nevertheless moving forward with projects, such as the implementation, in 1993, of a complete change to its computer reservation system where every check-in employee had to learn the new check-in system, which entailed changes in areas such as ticketing, baggage operations and gates. Another challenge experienced by Canadi*n occurred in 1996, when American Airlines, Inc. updated and enhanced its check-in system, which directly affected Canadi*n, and required training of all check-in agents and gate agents around the world on what is known as the Airport Check-in System. There was also the implementation of virtual ticketing in January 1997, and the opening of Miami as a base. Canadi*n indicates that the scheduling of this computer reservation system training was unique because it provided training in 23 locations around the world, which required it to hire additional instructors. The training of airport employees involved approximately 1,000 classes for approximately 70 instructors and 10,000 employees. Most of this exercise was completed in 90 days between August and October 1994, and the transfer to the SABRE system was completed on November 6, 1994. It also affected other employees in the areas of reservations, cargo and ramp.

Monitoring Effectiveness / Ensuring Compliance / Employee Reaction

Canadi*n provided its trainers with a one-day refresher training course in 1995 and a three-day course in March 1997. Canadi*n advises that it is the responsibility of its airport managers to ensure that their staff are trained. Canadi*n submits that its airport managers have reported that they are in compliance with the Training Regulations and as such all airport agents have received the necessary training.

Canadi*n is planning refresher training for airport agents in 1998, which will require assessing needs, gathering information, and meeting with the consultant who currently does the three-day intensive course for the trainers. Once Canadi*n has prepared the course, it will have a pilot session for the instructors to gather feedback from them. This will be followed by a test class with a group of instructors and agents.

Canadi*n provides refresher training for reservation agents upon request by the reservation offices. To determine whether refresher training is needed, supervisors in each reservation office review customer complaints, and the training leads take into account the questions they receive from reservation agents on a particular topic. Based on this information, the four Canadi*n reservation offices will get together and discuss whether refresher training is needed and, if so, in what areas.

Perception of Agency's Complaint Process

Canadi*n is of the opinion that the process is useful for identifying issues which can be addressed in training and for needed changes to procedures. However, it points out that not all complaints filed are valid or they only are valid in some respects. Canadi*n expresses the view that it is crucial, if complaints are to be effectively addressed, that they be filed more promptly and be dealt with quickly.

What is done with complaints brought to attention of the carrier

Currently complaints are dealt with individually and there is no central recording system. The carrier acknowledges that further improvements can be made to the logging and tracking of customer complaints and these complaints could then be used in the development of initial and refresher training.

What solutions have been found to deal with problems which have arisen

Canadi*n notes that there have been a few problems which have arisen. It was decided before the Agency conducted the hearing that refresher training for airport agents was a priority and as a result of this complaint, a more in-depth training module will be given on the assembly and disassembly of wheelchairs to airport agents during their refresher training.

CAW - Airline Local 1990

CAW represents approximately 3,200 members who work at Canadi*n and Canadian Regional Airlines in Reservations, Cargo and Airports across Canada.

CAW states that a training program was developed by Canadi*n well before the Training Regulations required it. While the training, which covers sensitivity training and physical assistance techniques, continues to be relevant, CAW states that recurrent training is not done on a regular basis, not every base has a lead agent, and that actual training on lifting is not always done in a realistic setting. It also states that perhaps the training may be getting diluted through several sessions of "train the trainer".

CAW also submits that a skill must be practised regularly to maintain proficiency. Wheelchair assembly, disassembly, disconnecting and packaging batteries are not done frequently enough by check-in agents, especially in larger airports, to allow agents to become experts or even comfortable with the task.

Another concern raised is that, notwithstanding the large sums of money Canadi*n has invested in the "Lift Aloft" mechanical lift, these are not always used thus posing hazards for both employees and passengers. CAW maintains the right of its members to refuse to do work that poses a danger for themselves or for the passenger.

SECTION 3 AREAS OF CONCERN

ACCESSIBLE SEATING

It was submitted that travellers with disabilities continue to experience some difficulties with respect to seating onboard aircraft. The concerns raised relate to:

  • a traveller's inability to confirm specific seating in advance of travel;
  • the carriers' failure to ensure that accessible seats are the last seats assigned to passengers without disabilities;
  • the carriers' failure to recognize any accessible seating feature other than movable armrests in their designation of accessible seating.

The Regulatory Obligation

The Agency recognizes that there are a number of factors making the process of designating and assigning accessible seats a complex issue. These include diversity of equipment, different aircraft configurations, equipment substitutions and the differing needs of persons with disabilities. An accessible seat to one person can create problems for another.

Accessible seating includes those seats in an aircraft which provide an added level of accessibility, for instance, the bulkhead seats on some aircraft which provide added legroom or space for a guide dog, seats with movable armrests, and seats located close to a washroom and/or an exit.

The ATR provide that where a passenger identifies the nature of his or her disability, the carrier shall, before assigning a passenger seat, inform the person of the seats that are most accessible for that person. The ATR also require that where an air carrier assigns seats in advance of travel, those seats which provide added accessibility shall be the last assigned to passengers without disabilities.

What do carriers consider an accessible seat

Seats with movable armrests are designated accessible seats (H-designated seats) by Air Canada, Air Nova and Canadi*n. Notwithstanding these "designated" accessible seats, Air Canada and Canadi*n maintain that other seats can be assigned as long as the desired seat is not located in an emergency exit row.

Other seats on the aircraft which are deemed highly desirable by some passengers with special needs are those in the bulkhead row with features such as additional leg room and proximity to washrooms and/or exits. However, Air Canada and Canadi*n indicate that, in certain aircraft types, bulkhead seats are not always the most desirable ones. On some aircraft these seats may offer less leg room due to a facing wall, and the armrest may be fixed because it is where the seat tray is stored. Such seats will not be the most desirable for any passenger.

Carriers, in accordance with the ATR, have pre-identified accessible seats and these seats are the last assigned to persons without disabilities. In addition to blocking accessible seats for its special needs passengers, both carriers do block certain other seats, such as the bulkhead. These seats are blocked off from general assignment by travel agents as the carriers keep a certain number for assignment at the airport or for high revenue passengers. This provides the carrier personnel with available seating to meet the needs of, for instance, families travelling with small children or passengers with long legs.

Air Canada and Canadi*n advise, however, that travel agents, in addition to being able to book an H-designated seat, can pre-book any other seat for persons with disabilities. In the case where the seat has been blocked off or is already assigned and is not available to the agent through the system, the agent can contact the carrier in order to secure the required seat. The process differs slightly between the two carriers. At Air Canada, a travel agent can call the carrier's help desk to override a previous assignment or to secure a blocked seat. At Canadi*n, the agent must call Canadi*n's Meda Desk, which, in addition to providing services to passengers who require pre-authorized medical clearance, will also assign the seats that are not otherwise available to reservation and travel agents for pre-assignment.

As a result of the information exchanged at the hearing, the carriers expressed the opinion that the current process whereby only the movable armrest seats are designated as accessible seats could be reviewed. Both carriers commented that a review could result in the identification of seats other than those with movable armrests as accessible seats. The Agency encourages the carriers to reconsider their current accessible seat designation policies. During the hearing, Air Canada indicated that it has started to review its accessible seat designation policy, which currently does not include bulkhead seats. Air Canada is also currently standardizing its seat maps, which means that special seating characteristics will appear in the same location on most, if not all, aircraft types. For example, row 9 will always be a bulkhead row on its CL65 aircraft.

In addition, Air Canada and Canadi*n indicate that they are prepared to consider designating seats other than those with movable armrests as accessible seats. Canadi*n states that flexibility must be left to the airline, the primary concern being to provide accessible seats to those persons with disabilities who require them.

The Agency agrees that the seat designation process for travellers with disabilities is complex. It is the Agency's opinion that the H-designated accessible seats identified by Air Canada, Air Nova and Canadi*n are misleading to persons with disabilities, airline employees and travel agents. The seat maps give the impression that the only accessible seats for persons with disabilities are the H-designated seats. As this is not the case, and there are other seats that may provide greater accessibility for some persons with disabilities, it should be clear on the seat maps that these other types of seats are also considered accessible. A reasonable selection of these seats should be coded appropriately and defined to identify the various accessibility features as mentioned above.

The Agency is of the view that Air Canada, Air Nova and Canadi*n should expand on the type of seat they designate as accessible to include a reasonable number of seats that provide features such as extra leg room and proximity to washrooms and exits, including bulkhead seats where appropriate.

Awareness of Accessible Seating

Both Canadi*n and Air Canada allow passengers to reserve seats in advance. To assist in providing this service, employees of both carriers, as well as travel agents, have access to seat maps in their computer reservation system for each aircraft type they operate. As mentioned earlier, the letter "H" on the maps identifies accessible seating for persons with disabilities. While Canadi*n's employee union, CAW, indicated after the hearing that there are no seat maps in the SABRE system that identify seats with movable armrests, it must be noted that Canadi*n did produce a printout of such a seat map during the hearing.

The Agency recognizes that Canadi*n trains reservation and airport agents on how to display seat maps, along with the explanation for the "H" code used for accessible seats. However, according to CAW, there are some Canadi*n employees who are not aware of the location of these seat maps and it appears that the employees need to be reminded where seat maps identifying accessible seating can be found. This electronic display appears to be a useful tool to assist employees and travel agents in their seat assignment functions, but unless it is easily accessible, it will fail to serve its purpose.

The Agency is of the view that Canadi*n should issue a reminder to reservation agents, airport agents and travel agents, concerning the location of seat maps to assist them in the assignment of accessible seats. This information should also include a reminder of where to find the explanation for the code used to designate seats as accessible.

Booking Accessible Seating

Air Canada, Air Nova and Canadi*n do provide their employees with a level of flexibility when assigning seats to persons with disabilities. Regardless of the designation of the movable armrest seats, these carriers expect their employees to determine, in conjunction with passengers, the seats that are the most accessible to meet their needs.

Travel agents who have access to a computer reservation system are also able to reserve seats for their customers. When agents are unable to reserve a specific accessible seat, they must contact the appropriate carrier employee to have them override their seating policies.

Though noting Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's lack of awareness of Canadi*n's Meda Desk and her subsequent observation that having a Meda Desk to go through to get a seat assignment is simply another hurdle for persons with disabilities, the Agency recognizes that each individual carrier will establish the procedures that work best for it.

Canadi*n states that while Ms. Lemieux-Brassard may not be aware of the Meda Desk, her travel agencies certainly are. Canadi*n indicates that the Meda Desk provides a valuable service to travel agencies and reservation agents, not only to deal with passengers who require pre-authorized medical clearance, but also to make seats available to persons with disabilities when travel and reservation agents are unable to assign the most accessible seat for the person. Canadi*n's opinion that having a group of specialized reservation agents who are familiar with the carrier's policies and procedures on the transportation of persons with disabilities seems reasonable.

The Agency has observed that both carriers' procedures will work and will not place a burden on the traveller if the policies and procedures are well understood and applied properly. Awareness of the policy is not only critical for carrier reservation agents but for travel agents, especially given both carriers' evidence that approximately 75 to 80 percent of tickets are sold through travel agents. In many cases, the travel agent is the carrier's only contact with the passenger. As noted by Ms. Lemieux-Brassard, she and her travel agent have often been advised that she cannot get a particular seat when seeking advance seat assignment.

The Agency is of the view that Canadi*n, Air Canada and Air Nova should provide clear instructions to their employees and travel agents regarding their accessible seating policies and procedures, including the ability to obtain seats previously assigned or blocked for another purpose. The Agency is also of the view that the carriers should amend their training programs, including refresher courses, for employees involved in seat assignments to include instructions on the carriers' accessible seating policies and procedures.

WHEELCHAIR HANDLING PROCEDURES

The concerns raised during the hearing relating to the handling of wheelchairs by air carriers involved the following issues:

  • the unavailability of standard tools to disconnect batteries from a wheelchair;
  • employees' inability to properly assemble and disassemble electric wheelchairs;
  • employees' inability to properly disconnect and package wheelchair batteries;
  • the manner in which carriers deal with mobility aids that are damaged in transit;
  • lack of procedures to differentiate between a lost/damaged wheelchair and a lost/damaged suitcase, which trivializes the importance of the former;
  • failure to provide an electric wheelchair as a temporary replacement for a damaged or lost electric wheelchair;
  • the provision of a manual wheelchair without the services of an attendant as a temporary replacement for a damaged or lost electric wheelchair;
  • the lack of information on the options available to the person with a disability when a mobility aid is damaged or lost;
  • the lack of electric wheelchairs at all airports, with the exception of Toronto.

The level of personnel training provided by the carriers on the handling of electric wheelchairs was also raised. There were concerns that the training program provided by Canadi*n in particular does not adequately address the assembly and disassembly of electric wheelchairs, which leaves the employees at a loss when faced with a traveller who uses such a mobility aid. As indicated above, there were a number of occasions when airline employees did not know how to assemble or disassemble Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's electric wheelchair.

The Regulatory Obligation

Air carriers are required, pursuant to the ATR, to disassemble, package, unpackage and reassemble mobility aids. Furthermore, the Training Regulations require air carriers to train employees who handle mobility aids on the proper methods of carrying and stowing them, including disassembling, packaging, unpackaging and assembling the aids.

Tools to Disassemble Wheelchairs

At Canadi*n, customer service agents at the ticket counters are responsible for disassembling and packaging wheelchairs and disconnecting and packaging batteries. Canadi*n's management at each airport is to ensure that standard tools are at the agents' disposal. However, Canadi*n was unable to confirm whether tools were indeed available at all airports.

Should unique tools be necessary to disassemble a mobility aid, it is Canadi*n's policy to ask the person with a disability to bring them to the airport. Canadi*n points out, however, that this is rarely necessary. At the hearing, Canadi*n also recognized that the use of the term "unique" might give an agent the impression that they have the discretion to decide what is a unique tool. As such, Canadi*n states that this is an area which requires improvement.

The Agency is of the view that Canadi*n's policy causes confusion for the carrier's employees and for travellers with disabilities. Because Canadi*n does not have a policy on specific tools that each airport must have available, the passenger with a disability may not receive a consistent level of service from one airport to the next. Moreover, Canadi*n's failure to clearly indicate the tools that should be available at each airport makes it impossible for reservation agents and travel agents to tell customers which tool is considered "unique".

The Agency is of the view that Canadi*n should identify the most commonly used tools needed to disassemble mobility aids and ensure that each of the airports it serves is so equipped. Furthermore, the Agency is of the view that a list of these tools should be easily accessible to allow employees and travel agents to be able to correctly and consistently inform passengers of the need to provide their own tools.

Assembly and Disassembly of Electric Wheelchairs, including Disconnecting and Packaging Batteries

Employees assigned function

Canadi*n explains that it is the responsibility of its customer service agents at the check-in counters to disassemble wheelchairs, including disconnecting and packaging batteries, whether this is done at the counter or at the departure gate. Canadi*n also explains that all employees required to handle wheelchairs receive training on the assembly and disassembly of wheelchairs, including disconnecting and packaging batteries.

In the description of Air Canada's training program, the carrier indicates that the employees and contractors who handle mobility aids are flight attendants, airport customer sales and service agents, station attendants, and sky-cap porter assistants. Air Canada also lists its four training modules as the subject matter covered in the program.

However, the Agency heard testimony from Air Canada witnesses who indicated otherwise. It is primarily station attendants who would disassemble and assemble mobility aids as part of their functions related to the loading and off-loading of aircraft. Baggage agents, who are responsible for tracing baggage and helping passengers to complete baggage claims, will sometimes be required to handle wheelchairs. While Air Canada indicates that this is more likely to occur at smaller airports where employees often perform more than one function, Ms. Lemieux-Brassard related an incident that occurred at the Dorval airport. During a late arrival, the only Air Canada personnel available was the baggage agent, who did not appear to know how to assemble an electric wheelchair. This greatly delayed her exit from the airport.

It appears from the statements made during the hearing that the only employee group that receives training on the disassembly and assembly of wheelchairs and on the disconnecting and packaging of batteries, which is provided in Module 3, is the station attendants.

Training Content

Canadi*n submits that the training it provides to enable its employees to meet this regulatory requirement is very general, which was based on the advice from a consultant who indicated that there were approximately 100 different wheelchair manufacturers, and at least five or six battery manufacturers. The consultant, Mobil Rehab, is the firm that helped Canadi*n with its "Assisting Customers with Disabilities" training program. Moreover, Canadi*n submits that persons with disabilities know their mobility aids better than anybody else and this is why it stresses the importance of communication between employees and persons with disabilities.

During the hearing, Kéroul, the organization that prepared Air Canada's training program, gave evidence concerning the section of Air Canada's training program dealing with assembly and disassembly of manual wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs and scooters. Kéroul recognizes that it is impossible to cover every electric wheelchair that exists in a training program. Its goal was to cover the majority of situations that employees might encounter.

Kéroul indicates that there are standard components in an electric wheelchair, such as a control box, four wheels and batteries. While it is possible that a customer may own a very specialized wheelchair, Kéroul expresses the view that it would be very rare that airline personnel would have absolutely no idea how to handle it.

In light of the different types of electric wheelchairs on the market, Air Canada had Kéroul divide its training module on this topic into categories addressing the most commonly used models: the Everest and Jennings models, the Orthofab or Targa models, and the Fortress models. The scooter is also integrated into this training module. The training guides used for this module identify the various characteristics of these wheelchair models and provide detailed instructions on how the models are to be disassembled and assembled, including disconnecting and packaging batteries.

It is the Agency's opinion that Air Canada has thoroughly and adequately provided details and explanations in its training documents on the handling of wheelchairs. The Agency notes that Air Canada was able to address the complex issue of electric wheelchairs in these documents.

While it seems that Air Canada's training documents effectively address the matter of disassembly and assembly of mobility aids for station attendants, it appears that not every employee who might be called upon to handle a mobility aid is provided with this training. The fact that the baggage agent at the Dorval airport did not know how to assemble Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's wheelchair shows the importance of providing the necessary training to all employees who might be faced with this task.

The Agency agrees with Canadi*n's statement on the importance of communication between carriers' personnel and persons with disabilities, particularly when an employee is assembling or disassembling a wheelchair. This does not, however, waive the carriers' obligations under the ATR to disassemble and assemble the wheelchairs, as well as their obligation under the Training Regulations to properly train employees who are required to provide this assistance.

The Agency is of the view that there is a lack of effectiveness in Canadi*n's training program in this area because it does not sufficiently or specifically address the handling of electric wheelchairs. While no amount of training will remove every possibility of human error and mistake, the Agency is of the opinion that a thorough training program that adequately addresses subject matters will help to minimize the likelihood or the impact of human error. The Agency notes that Canadi*n advised that it will incorporate more thorough training on how to disassemble and assemble electric wheelchairs in both the initial airport agents training and the upcoming refresher training program scheduled for 1998. As part of Canadi*n's amended training program, airport agents will be exposed to a number of different types of wheelchairs and their common characteristics.

During the training, Canadi*n will also provide employees with hands-on experience with electric wheelchairs, something it has not previously offered. Problem-solving techniques for assembling and disassembling wheelchairs will be included in the training.

The Agency is of the view that Canadi*n should proceed with its initiative to amend its initial training program and refresher course to provide more detailed instructions to employees required to handle wheelchairs on how to disassemble and assemble electric wheelchairs, including practical training with electric wheelchairs and batteries. The Agency is also of the view that Air Canada should ensure that every employee who might have to assemble or disassemble mobility aids, such as baggage agents, receive the necessary training.

Electric wheelchairs at each airport

It appears from Canadi*n's evidence that Toronto is the only airport in Canada that is permanently equipped with an electric wheelchair. As such, a suggestion was made by CAW that Canadi*n should make a major capital investment in new wheelchairs for airports, including electric wheelchairs to move passengers up steep bridges in order to reduce the risk for passengers and employees. Ms. Lemieux-Brassard agreed with CAW's suggestion, and noted that electric wheelchairs would also help in the hands-on employee training. On the matter of Canadi*n's manual airport wheelchairs, CAW submits that many of them are past their serviceable life span and should be discarded.

Canadi*n indicates that this issue is under review, and that it has already initiated a manual wheelchair repair program at the Toronto airport. Canadi*n states that the purchase of electric wheelchairs would be considered only if various steep bridges were identified as problem areas, and if the purchase of such wheelchairs would effectively deal with the problem. Canadi*n submits that electric wheelchairs do not necessarily make sense for steep bridges as passengers would not be familiar with powered wheelchairs in most cases, and the risks associated with their use would be considerable. Furthermore, the purchase and maintenance of an electric wheelchair for each airport is unrealistic and cost prohibitive.

Air Canada submits that airlines should not be required to have on hand electric wheelchairs at all stations. CAW's comments did not refer to providing replacement mobility aids but to having such wheelchairs at airports to help airport agents bring persons with disabilities up steep boarding bridges. Although Air Canada and Air Nova strive to replace "like with like" when a person's electric wheelchair is damaged or lost, such an option may not always be possible. Air Canada indicates that part of the reason for not having an electric wheelchair available at every station is that the batteries have a tendency of being non-operative because they are not charged or from lack of use. Air Canada submits that this request is unreasonable; however, it will be adding more manual wheelchairs at the airports.

The Agency recognizes the benefit of having an electric wheelchair available at each airport. It could be used not only as a replacement when a person's own chair is lost, damaged or delayed, but also as a training tool. However, it appears to not be needed as a training tool since both Air Canada and Canadi*n have already indicated that they do, or will, include hands-on experience when training employees on how to disassemble and assemble electric wheelchairs. Furthermore, both carriers have policies in place which stipulate that a replacement electric wheelchair will be provided from a supplier on a temporary basis to persons with disabilities when damage or loss is discovered at one of the larger airports. Therefore, at issue are only the smaller airports. As long as the carriers provide the service of an attendant to push a temporary manual wheelchair, it is the Agency's opinion that a requirement that an electric wheelchair be available at all small airports is not necessary. This issue is addressed in greater detail later in this Decision.

WHEELCHAIR REPAIR PROCEDURES AND WHEELCHAIR REPLACEMENTS

The following are the issues raised concerning air carriers' procedures when a wheelchair is damaged or lost in transit:

  • in some communities, there are no wheelchair repair facilities;
  • it might be inconvenient for the person to have his or her wheelchair repaired at the time of the incident;
  • persons often prefer to have their wheelchairs repaired after their return home;
  • while carriers will compensate persons with disabilities for expenses incurred to have their mobility aid repaired, it is difficult for persons on fixed incomes to initially pay for repairs;
  • carriers do not always provide a suitable temporary replacement when electric wheelchairs are damaged or lost;
  • the requirement to sign an overly broad release when a payment is made to cover the repair of a damaged wheelchair may be interpreted by persons with disabilities as removing their right to file a complaint with the Agency.

Ms. Lemieux-Brassard submits that air carriers should provide an electric wheelchair as a temporary replacement for an electric wheelchair. Alternatively, carriers should provide the services of an attendant to push a manual wheelchair, at their expense. It was suggested that this option should be offered to the person when a temporary electric wheelchair cannot be provided within one hour after being notified that a wheelchair is damaged or lost.

Furthermore, Ms. Lemieux-Brassard and her witness suggest that passengers whose wheelchairs are damaged should be given a plain language brochure describing the repair process and a voucher which authorizes the repair shop to bill the airline directly.

The Regulatory Obligation

When a mobility aid is damaged during carriage, or is not available to the person with a disability upon arrival, the ATR require air carriers to immediately provide a suitable temporary replacement at no charge to the passenger. In addition, the carrier must arrange for the prompt and adequate repair of the aid and return it to the person as soon as possible. If it cannot be repaired promptly and adequately, or the carrier cannot locate the aid within 96 hours after the person's arrival at his or her destination, the carrier must replace the aid with an identical one satisfactory to the person, or reimburse the person for the full replacement cost of the aid. All of these services are to be provided at the carrier's expense. Furthermore, the Training Regulations require carriers to ensure that appropriate personnel receive training on the carriers' policies and procedures with respect to persons with disabilities, including relevant regulatory requirements.

Options Available

When faced with a damaged mobility aid, Air Canada and Canadi*n policies are to provide persons with disabilities with various options to have it repaired. For example, the person can have the carrier make the arrangements to have the damaged aid picked up and repaired at a shop chosen by the carrier, or a shop of its choice.

Another option provided is for the person to make the arrangements themselves. Yet another option presented by Air Canada was to have one of the repair shops it deals with make arrangements to transport the damaged aid to and from an establishment preferred by the person. When the damage occurs away from the person's home, Air Canada would also allow a person to wait for his/her return home before having the aid repaired.

Included in Air Canada's and Canadi*n's repair policies, in accordance with the ATR, are requirements for the provision of a temporary replacement until the person's mobility aid can be returned to them. Both carriers aim to provide the person with the same type of mobility aid. However, this is not always possible, in particular when it involves an electric wheelchair. Sometimes, the person will be provided with a model as close as possible to its own. At other times, the carrier may not be able to provide a replacement electric wheelchair at all, as in certain smaller communities there may not be facilities for wheelchair replacement.

If an electric wheelchair cannot be provided in a timely manner, Air Canada will provide the services of a station attendant with a manual wheelchair. Such a service is not part of Canadi*n's policy. Canadi*n submits that there should be flexibility so that a passenger's needs can be addressed. Canadi*n states that the provision of an attendant was not well explored during the hearing. Therefore, Canadi*n submits that the Agency should not require it to provide such a service unless this issue is identified as a major concern, in which case there should be further study.

While all of these options exist, the Agency notes that they are not always clearly communicated to employees and to persons with disabilities. This is unfortunate, as many of these options address the concerns voiced by Ms. Lemieux-Brassard.

In Canadi*n's case, an error was found in its baggage service manual, in that it did not reflect all the options available to persons with disabilities when their mobility aids are damaged or lost. The manual has now been corrected and was updated in September 1997 to clarify procedures and to reflect Agency regulatory requirements. The corrected manual now instructs baggage agents to give the option of having a damaged mobility aid picked up, delivered to the repair shop, having it repaired, arranging for direct billing if possible, and then having it returned to the customer, all at the carrier's expense. Also included as part of this manual update was the addition of information on how to locate suitable temporary replacements, including electric wheelchairs, from sources such as local hospitals.

A review of the computer printouts of the electronic information available to employees of Air Canada and Canadi*n concerning damaged or lost aids revealed that the options presented by the carriers are not completely identified. There are general statements about the carriers' obligations to repair and replace damaged or lost aids, but no indication that these are regulatory obligations and no specifics on how these obligations are to be met by the employees.

Canadi*n indicates that the training on the procedures to follow when a wheelchair is damaged is done in the baggage service course, which is separate from the "Assisting Customers with Disabilities" training program.

Air Canada testified that its baggage agents are aware of the various options and procedures concerning damaged wheelchairs. The air carrier includes, as an appendix to its training program, a summary of the ATR. While this appendix clearly reflects the carrier's regulatory responsibilities when a mobility aid is damaged or lost, there are no details as to how its employees are to carry out their tasks.

The Agency also notes that Air Canada provides documentation to persons with disabilities when their mobility aid is damaged; however, it relates to baggage claims only. It makes no reference to the repair options available for mobility aids or the policy on replacement aids mentioned above. The documentation distributed by Canadi*n to passengers whose mobility aid has been damaged is a baggage claim form which the person must complete. While it is the same form used for a damaged piece of luggage, it does contain a specific section on wheelchairs.

The Agency supports Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's suggestion that carriers should develop a brochure to be given to passengers at airports when their mobility aid is damaged or lost, outlining available options and information on replacement mobility aids. Such brochures would be a useful tool to keep persons with disabilities informed and to help remind airport employees of the procedures to follow. It would also highlight the greater importance of handling damaged mobility aids as compared to the handling of damaged luggage.

Air Canada and Canadi*n have agreed to develop a brochure on procedures to follow when a mobility aid is damaged or lost.

The Agency is also of the opinion that the training programs and the electronic information provided by both Air Canada and Canadi*n to their employees do not adequately address procedures and options on wheelchair repairs and replacements. If employees are not properly informed of the procedures to follow, incidents will occur where they will not know what to do when a mobility aid is damaged or lost and they will not provide suitable options to a passenger.

The Agency is of the view that Air Canada and Canadi*n should produce a brochure to outline repair and replacement options for damaged or lost mobility aids, which includes provisions relating to replacement aids. The Agency is also of the view that the two carriers should amend their training programs and electronic information to clearly reflect the services provided to persons with disabilities pursuant to the ATR, as they relate to damaged or lost mobility aids.

List of Repair Shops

When a mobility aid is damaged, the carrier or the person with a disability will usually contract with a repair shop to have the aid repaired and for the provision of a temporary replacement. Air Canada states that it has a list of repair shops that it has dealt with at each of its baggage offices in North America. While Canadi*n did not have such lists, it advised that, since the hearing, it has started to develop lists of facilities it can use for wheelchair repairs. It is the Agency's opinion that such lists are necessary tools for carrier employees to deal with damaged mobility aids in a more efficient manner.

It is the Agency's opinion that Canadi*n should continue with its efforts to develop lists of the local establishments that can repair mobility aids and provide replacements, where they are available, and provide those lists to employees responsible for wheelchair repairs.

Electric Wheelchair Replacements

It was suggested that air carriers provide electric wheelchairs as temporary replacements for damaged or lost electric wheelchairs. While the Agency understands the inconvenience experienced by a person with a disability when an appropriate replacement wheelchair is not available, it also understands that a replacement electric wheelchair may not always be available, in particular in communities located in remote areas.

However, a carrier's failure to provide an alternate means of independent mobility when a person's electric wheelchair is damaged or lost is not acceptable, and is contrary to the ATR. When a temporary electric wheelchair replacement is not available, an acceptable solution for carriers is to provide the services of a station attendant to push a temporary manual wheelchair, which allows the carrier to meet its obligations under the ATR. The Agency notes that Air Canada has already implemented such a policy.

There are situations where a person with a disability travels with an attendant. In these situations, the carriers may enter into a dialogue with the person to determine if he/she prefers that an attendant be provided by the carrier, or whether the person's personal attendant would be preferable. However, there must be discussion of the options available and the choice must be made by the person with a disability, and not the carrier.

The ATR require carriers to immediately provide the person with a suitable temporary replacement when the person's mobility aid is damaged or not otherwise available at destination. The Agency understands that in some situations, more time may be required to arrange for a replacement. In some cases, a one-hour time frame within which to provide a temporary electric wheelchair, as suggested by Ms. Lemieux-Brassard, may not be reasonable as there are many factors, such as the number of attempts required to locate a replacement, the distance of the repair/replacement shop from the airport, weather conditions and traffic. The Agency expects, however, that carriers will make every effort to provide this service as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, the Agency deems it reasonable that air carriers be required to inform the person with a disability within one hour after being notified that a wheelchair is damaged or lost, of the arrangements that are possible for a temporary means of mobility.

The Agency is of the view that Canadi*n should develop a policy to ensure that persons with disabilities are provided with a temporary independent means of mobility when the carrier has damaged or lost an electric wheelchair. The Agency is also of the view that Canadi*n and Air Canada should require employees to inform persons with disabilities within one hour of being notified that a wheelchair is damaged or lost of the arrangements they are able to make concerning a replacement.

Release for Payment of Expenses

With respect to Air Canada's policy to attach a release when it pays out-of-pocket expenses related to a person's repair of a mobility aid, Air Canada explains that when there is a settlement with a customer that exceeds $100, its policy is to stamp a standard release on the back of the cheque. The release that appeared on the initial cheque issued to Ms. Lemieux-Brassard for the claim involving repairs to her wheelchair stated "In consideration of claim filed on August 14, 1996 against Air Canada, by cashing or endorsing this cheque I hereby give full and final release and discharge of this claim to Air Canada." It is Air Canada's view that the release could only be construed as applying to a specific claim for compensation filed with the carrier. A covering letter with the cheque provided an explanation of the settlement. However, Ms. Lemieux-Brassard and her witness have interpreted this release to mean that the customer would have to cease all other claims against the airline. They are of the view that airlines should not require passengers to sign overly broad releases when making payments related to a damaged mobility aid.

Air Canada eventually issued another cheque to Ms. Lemieux-Brassard without the standard release because she was unhappy with the statement on the first cheque. Instead, Air Canada made the release reference on the front of the cheque, "In settlement of claim for damages to a wheelchair, August 1996", to satisfy its internal requirements and to keep the customer happy as well.

As for Canadi*n, it is not its practice to ask customers to sign a release from all claims in order to receive reimbursement for the costs of repairs to a wheelchair.

The manner in which Air Canada words its release appears to be amply specific to a customer's claim for reimbursement of expenses arising from a damaged mobility aid to allow a person with a disability to pursue other avenues to deal issues other than the monetary compensation sought from the carrier. In any event, the Agency will not interpret these releases as precluding recourse before the Agency. However, Air Canada's flexibility in issuing a cheque without the standard release to customers who disagree with its intent is helpful in ensuring that there is no misunderstanding in this area.

CONFIRMATION OF SERVICES

Concerns were raised regarding the level of information provided during the reservation and ticketing process, as it relates to the services to be provided by the carriers.

The Regulatory Obligation

When a person with a disability is making a reservation, the ATR require air carriers to describe the services that the air carrier must provide when persons with disabilities request them at least 48 hours prior to departure. This includes not only the services required pursuant to the ATR, but also any additional services that the carrier provides to persons with disabilities. If a request for services is made less than 48 hours prior to departure, the ATR stipulate that the carrier will make a reasonable effort to provide the service.

The ATR also require air carriers who have the facilities to do so to indicate in a persons's reservation record (commonly referred to as PNR) any services that the carrier will provide to the person. The carrier is also required to provide written confirmation of the services that it will provide to the person. Carriers are also required to make reasonable efforts to inform their agents of the requirements to record the requested services and to provide written confirmation of the services.

Services Provided by Air Carriers

Canadi*n's policy is to have reservation agents ask persons with disabilities what type of services they require. If the customer is unaware of the services Canadi*n provides, or upon request, the agent will read a list from its computer reservation system, which identifies the service requirements as set out in the ATR. The reservation agent would then note on the person's reservation record the services requested by the customer. As for the requirement to provide written confirmation of the services, Canadi*n states that travel agents do provide this service, but Canadi*n provides it only upon request. Canadi*n states however, that it will provide written confirmation of the services to be provided each time a ticket is issued to a person with a disability, if it is deemed necessary.

Air Canada publishes an information brochure We have special services for special needs, which lists the majority of services it provides to persons with disabilities. Air Canada also includes in its timetable a list of the services it provides pursuant to the ATR. In Canadi*n's timetable, there is mention that the carrier will provide special assistance to persons with disabilities if requested 48 hours or more prior to departure, and that the person should contact a travel agent or the carrier to make arrangements.

Air Canada also provided printouts of a person's reservation record in which it shows various codes to identify services requested by persons with disabilities. The information reflected in a person's reservation record is not always easy to understand for most travellers. Therefore, Air Canada provides customers with an itinerary that is more clearly worded so that they can understand what the carrier recorded in the person's reservation record. A similar document is also provided by travel agencies.

With respect to the codes used in a person's reservation record, the Agency, during the proceedings in a different case, became aware that Air Canada uses standard International Air Transport Association (hereinafter IATA) special service requests codes. The Agency is also aware that IATA codes do not reflect every service required to be provided by carriers. Therefore, if a carrier relies on the use of IATA codes only to identify services to be provided to a customer with a disability, the carrier would not be complying with the ATR. Carriers in such a situation must find a way to include requested services in the reservation record of persons with disabilities to ensure that the appropriate personnel is aware of the request, and prepared to provide the services. This could be achieved by various means, such as having additional IATA codes created or adding notes to a reservation record when an IATA code does not exist for a particular service requested by a person with a disability. Furthermore, carriers must make a reasonable effort to inform their agents of the requirement to indicate in reservation records services that will be provided to persons with disabilities.

The Agency considers the requirement to provide written confirmation of services that will be provided by air carriers to be necessary. In too many cases, as Ms. Lemieux-Brassard has submitted, even after making arrangements for services, she found that once she arrived at the airport, the necessary services were not adequately provided, or not provided at all. The written confirmation is intended to help ensure that both parties clearly understand what is needed by the person and what the carrier is able to provide. Furthermore, it provides a level of reassurance that the carrier's personnel will be made aware of, and will provide, the necessary services.

Again, carriers can meet this regulatory requirement in different ways, such as a printout of the reservation record if it can be easily understood by the customer, an itinerary or a hand-written note indicating the requested services.

The Agency is of the view that Canadi*n should provide a written confirmation of the services it will provide to each person with a disability. Furthermore, the Agency is of the view that Air Canada should implement a system that will allow it to record in reservation records the services that it will provide to each person with a disability. Both Air Canada and Canadi*n should also make the necessary adjustments to their training programs to reflect these changes. In the interim, the carriers should ensure that employees are made aware of these changes.

COMMUNICATION OF INFORMATION

An issue that was presented concerns the confusion caused by the number of different places where a person with a disability can go when checking in at airports. Ms. Lemieux-Brassard submits that even the Dorval airport, which she knows very well, can pose significant difficulties, as check-in procedures vary from one flight to the next. In addition, check-in procedures vary from one airport to the next.

Ms. Lemieux-Brassard and her witness suggest that it would be helpful if persons with disabilities were informed during the ticketing process of the check-in locations at all airports concerned, as well as the advance check-in time requirement for each airport. If ticketing is done by a travel agent, Ms. Lemieux-Brassard suggests that the agent provide written confirmation of the proper check-in procedures. These confirmations would avoid having persons with disabilities wandering around airports in search of assistance or waiting needlessly in long check-in lineups. They are of the view that this written information should be provided whether or not it is requested by the person with a disability.

Information Concerning Check-in

Air Canada explained that the difficulties Ms. Lemieux-Brassard experienced at the Dorval airport one year ago were largely due to construction and resulting confusion over a period of 18 months. This situation caused Air Canada to relocate its special services counter at least four times, and on a few occasions, it did not have facilities to provide the assistance required by passengers with special needs, such as persons with disabilities and unaccompanied minors. Air Canada now has a permanent location for its special services counter at the Dorval airport.

As the Dorval airport is divided into various sections, Air Canada states that the check-in point depends on the person's destination. In addition, at certain airports, persons with disabilities can check in at either a regular check-in counter or a special services counter. Air Canada does not specifically tell its customers where to check in. It allows them the choice, as some customers with disabilities prefer one counter over another.

Air Canada provides an additional service in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver. At those airports, a Special Assistance Team is responsible to assist customers who have special needs, such as children travelling alone, or passengers who need assistance to reach the boarding gate or when deplaning.

Both carriers responded favourably to Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's suggestion that passengers with disabilities be provided with information during the ticketing process on the check-in procedures at the specific airports to be used on the trip.

The Agency agrees that when a reservation is being made, it would be useful to certain persons with disabilities if air carriers were to provide information concerning airport check-in points. Such information is particularly important when a carrier offers, or requires, different check-in procedures for passengers who require assistance. Advance access to information about different check-in options would help to increase the traveller's confidence and independence, as well as help to avoid situations where persons with disabilities go to the wrong counter. As was evidenced in this case, this can lead to complications and even to missed flights.

The Agency expects that carriers would offer to inform all persons with disabilities of check-in procedures. However, it is reasonable to expect that written information about check-in points would only be provided as part of the ticketing process, upon request, if the procedures for persons with disabilities differ from those for persons without disabilities. Not every person with a disability would want, or need, written confirmation of this information every time they make a reservation.

The Agency is of the view that Air Canada, Air Nova and Canadi*n should add to their computer reservation systems information concerning check-in procedures for persons with disabilities at particular airports that differ from those for persons who do not require assistance. The Agency is also of the view that the carriers should ensure that their employees offer to inform persons with disabilities of the check-in procedures, and provide written confirmation when a person inquires about the services provided by the carrier and requests written confirmation. In addition, the carriers should make an effort to ensure that their travel agents provide the same service.

MONITORING AND COMPLAINT PROCESSES

Concerns were raised that Canadi*n and Air Canada depend too much on customer complaints to determine whether their training programs are effective and whether employees are in compliance with Agency regulations.

While the upgrades offered by carriers are welcomed by travellers who have verbally complained about a situation, there were concerns that information about problems experienced by a person with a disability, and, thus, opportunities for systemic changes are lost if employees do not inform the carrier of the incidents.

Ms. Lemieux-Brassard states that, notwithstanding all the unresolved issues documented in her complaint to the Agency, she was not once informed of her right to file a complaint with the Agency by airline personnel, nor was she informed of the carriers' internal complaint process.

It is Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's opinion that the ATR in this case are being too narrowly interpreted by the carriers, which might result in customers settling for less than full compensation because they are not aware they may have further recourse. She suggests that carriers provide written notice of both their internal and the Agency complaint processes when complaints are not resolved upon leaving the airport, for example by a notice in the proposed lost/damaged aid brochures or by providing the Agency complaint guide, which encourages informal resolutions of complaints.

The Regulatory Obligation

When an air carrier receives a complaint in respect of the services set out in the ATR, and it is unable to respond to the complaint to the satisfaction of the person, the ATR require the carrier to promptly inform the person that he/she may file an application for inquiry with the Agency.

Reporting of Incidents

The Agency notes that, in addition to using complaints as a monitoring tool, Air Canada, Air Nova and Canadi*n also monitor employees' general performance, which includes their dealings with persons with disabilities. This is achieved in a number of ways, including performance evaluations, employee feedback, on-the-job observations by management, and meetings with employees.

Air Canada and Canadi*n indicated that they do capture information about problems experienced by persons with disabilities, even if the situation is resolved by the use of upgrades. Their employees are required to report incidents where customers expressed concerns, whether or not the situation is resolved to the customer's satisfaction. The incidents are, in turn, recorded and investigated.

While these quality assurance programs exist, Air Canada and Canadi*n were not aware of most of the difficulties experienced by Ms. Lemieux-Brassard until five months after she travelled, when she filed her complaint with the Agency. Prior to that time, Canadi*n was only aware of a baggage claim in her case. Therefore, the carriers' tracking systems failed to capture many of Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's experiences such as a missed flight, non-provision of a bulkhead seat, lack of assistance in disconnecting her wheelchair battery, delayed delivery of her batteries, and manual wheelchair replacement with no outer rims.

The Agency is of the view that monitoring complaints is a useful and necessary tool to determine the effectiveness of training programs and to see whether the carriers are in compliance with the ATR. The Agency commends the carriers for also implementing other monitoring systems to assist them in meeting these objectives. However, while these tracking systems can be of great benefit to carriers in their efforts to monitor how well persons with disabilities are being served, it does not appear that their employees are using them to their fullest potential.

It is the Agency's opinion that Air Canada and Canadi*n should remind employees of their policies concerning the reporting of incidents, whether or not the customer files an official complaint.

Complaint Process

If a complaint from a person with a disability cannot be resolved at the airport at the time of the incident, both Air Canada and Canadi*n have complaint procedures in place where the incident can be investigated and resolved internally. Canadi*n states that, prior to Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's case, in the last two years, its customer services department has never dealt with a person with a disability who was not satisfied with the manner in which his/her complaint was handled.

The carriers do not consider the resolution process completed at the airport and, as such, would not inform the person of the Agency's complaint process at that point. This information would typically be transmitted at the end of the carriers' internal complaint process when the carriers are unable to adequately address the person's concerns. However, Canadi*n does not instruct its employees to inform persons with disabilities that they can file complaints with the Agency. As a result of the hearing, Canadi*n's customer relations department will begin to do so.

Air Canada does include information in its computer system concerning its regulatory obligation to inform persons with disabilities of the Agency's complaint process. The electronic reference also provides contact information for the Agency.

Air Canada, Air Nova and Canadi*n submit that they prefer to first deal with complaints directly with the customer to attempt to resolve the situation, rather than having them first file a complaint with the Agency. When a complaint is filed with the Agency, Air Canada and Air Nova find it difficult to obtain details from the passenger through the Agency. As such, Air Canada and Air Nova would prefer that the Agency immediately refer the passenger to the airline to deal with the issue, if this has not already been done.

In addition, Air Canada and Air Nova are of the opinion that the Agency complaint process does not allow the airlines to deal with the investigation in a timely manner, which was the case for Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's complaint filed directly with the Agency months after the incidents. In these cases, it is more difficult to thoroughly investigate the matter because some of the crucial information may no longer be available. It is the opinion of Air Canada, Air Nova and Canadi*n that the timely filing of a complaint allows them to investigate the matter as soon as possible and take the corrective measures that are necessary. Air Canada and Air Nova suggested that there be a time limit set out by the Agency for the acceptance of these complaints.

Canadi*n states that the Agency complaint process is useful for identifying issues which can be addressed in training and to highlight needed changes to procedures. However, not all complaints are valid or are valid in all respects. Therefore, Canadi*n indicates that employees must be given the opportunity to respond to the complaints when filed.

The legislative authority that allows the Agency to investigate complaints involving the transportation of persons with disabilities does not impose time limits within which persons with disabilities must file complaints. However, the Agency does recognize that the timely filing of complaints is helpful for all parties involved, and has reflected this in its Accessibility Complaint Guide as follows:

Since service providers usually keep records on passenger travel for a limited time, make sure that you file your complaint with the Agency as soon as possible. This enables the transportation service provider to investigate the incident.

Once the Agency receives a complaint pursuant to the CTA, the Agency is required to investigate that complaint, unless it is withdrawn by the applicant. Furthermore, once the Agency receives a complaint, it must consult those involved and make a decision within 120 days, unless the parties agree to an extension.

The Agency is of the view that it is the prerogative of persons with disabilities to choose the means by which they want their complaints investigated. Thus, it should be noted that the Agency mentions in a number of its On the Move brochures that persons with disabilities can file their complaints with either the carrier or the Agency. Canadi*n states that it should be the Agency's goal to have complaints resolved in an informal process rather than through an adversarial process. This is also a goal of the Agency, which is communicated to persons with disabilities in its Accessibility Complaint Guide. The Agency suggests the following to persons with disabilities:

Contact the management of the transportation service provider and try to resolve the problem. If your efforts are not successful, contact the Canadian Transportation Agency and make a complaint.

It is the Agency's opinion that it is reasonable to expect that carriers would not inform persons with disabilities of the Agency's complaint process until they have exhausted their internal complaint processes. However, for situations where a passenger might make inquiries on other avenues available to resolve a situation, it would be helpful for carriers to have information on the Agency's process readily available in their computer systems.

The Agency is of the view that Canadi*n should add information to its computer system about the regulatory requirement to inform persons with disabilities of the Agency's complaint process if the carrier is unable to resolve a complaint to the satisfaction of the person. The Agency is also of the view that Canadi*n should communicate this information to those employees most likely to receive complaints from persons with disabilities. Canadi*n should also ensure that this information is communicated to persons with disabilities, when necessary.

Corrective practices when regulations are not followed

Ms. Lemieux-Brassard and her witness suggest that airlines should apply particularly severe sanctions as a last resort when employees not only violate standards, but are less than forthright in acknowledging their errors. Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's witness also is of the view that when a carrier causes an undue obstacle or violates the ATR and/or the Training Regulations, the Agency should impose sanctions on the airline.

The CTA contains general enforcement provisions that include the authority to impose administrative monetary penalties as a consequence of a failure to comply with a legal requirement. The Agency is in the process of drafting regulations to implement administrative monetary penalties. These regulations will specifically designate provisions of the CTA and related regulations to be subject to administrative monetary penalties, as well as the penalties to be imposed for each violation. This initiative will assist the Agency in enforcing the CTA and regulations more efficiently and effectively.

Air Canada, Air Nova and Canadi*n disagree with the proposition that disciplinary measures should be taken when employees make mistakes. When performance deficiencies exist, the carriers indicate that they take steps to try to correct it. If a recurring situation is not rectified through coaching, counselling and further training, the carriers would then apply discipline, as provided for in the collective agreements.

Air Canada is of the opinion that the threat of a sanction to employees would not be helpful to persons with disabilities as it would discourage employees from coming forward and participating in the investigation. This would prevent others from learning from these situations, as they would not be brought forward by the employees.

It is the Agency's opinion that it is at the discretion of air carrier management to determine how and when it will discipline its employees. Air carriers must ultimately ensure that they are in compliance with Agency regulations. It is up to the carriers to implement the measures that they think will assist them in meeting these requirements.

Customer Survey

Air Canada gathers customer feedback with regular surveys of all passengers on many aspects of its operation, which allows it to identify systemic problems. Canadi*n also conducts weekly surveys of customers who travelled the previous week. However, neither carrier targets surveys specifically to persons with disabilities. Ms. Lemieux-Brassard suggests that the Agency order a satisfaction survey of customers by independent consultants, which should be funded by the carriers. The results would permit drawing statistically valid conclusions about strengths and should also be released to the public.

Air Canada and Air Nova do not agree that monitoring by an outside firm is necessary, nor warranted. Should the Agency conclude that such surveys are necessary, Air Canada submits that it should include all airlines based in Canada.

Air Canada explains that it does keep abreast of concerns or complaints of travellers with disabilities through involvement with organizations representing persons with disabilities, such as the Agency's Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation, the Minister's Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation, the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC)'s Accessible Transportation Committee, and the Transportation Development Centre. Moreover, Kéroul is presently conducting a survey on customer satisfaction with the services provided to persons with disabilities by different airlines, including Air Canada. Air Canada intends to use the results of this survey.

As mentioned above, carriers must ultimately ensure that services provided to persons with disabilities are in accordance with the ATR. Furthermore, carriers must ensure that the level of training provided to employees will allow them to properly provide these services. The Agency accepts the suggestion that carriers can ensure the effectiveness of their employee training through various means. The Agency agrees that surveys of travellers with disabilities would provide carriers with useful information on their level of satisfaction with the services provided by the carriers, which may not otherwise have been communicated to the carriers. Not everyone who encounters difficulties will share their experience with the carrier. While it is at the carriers' discretion to determine which monitoring procedures are best suited to their operations to assess whether employees are applying what they have learned during training, the Agency suggests that the carriers consider targeting travellers with disabilities when conducting their surveys.

The need to monitor

Canadi*n submits that the monitoring it undertakes is sufficient to ensure compliance with the ATR and Training Regulations. Furthermore, Canadi*n submits that its training programs are suitable and effective because it receives a small number of complaints. Canadi*n testified that it transports approximately one million passengers per month and, of those, approximately 0.2 percent had complaints or commendations about its services. Of these, only a very small number were persons with disabilities. Given the few complaints, Canadi*n questions what is reasonable in terms of monitoring employees' compliance with the ATR.

Unfortunately, Canadi*n was unable to identify the exact number of complaints that involve persons with disabilities, or how many persons who use mobility aids travel with the carrier, or how many required assistance from its staff. However, as a result of discussions at the hearing, Canadi*n determined that it can create a separate category in its customer complaints/commendations database for customers with disabilities to better understand the nature of issues that arise.

Air Canada already has a system to separately identify complaints from persons with disabilities in its customer relations database and baggage claims database. These tracking systems allow Air Canada to determine if there are any trends in the problems experienced by employees or passengers.

Of the 11.4 million passengers Air Canada carried between January 1 and August 31, 1997, it handled approximately 35,000 complaints, suggestions, and commendations, as well as 8,000 baggage claims, excluding damaged luggage repairs. Included in these numbers were 41 damaged wheelchairs, which cost Air Canada approximately $35,000. These claims ranged from $4.95 paid for damages to wheelchairs to $15,000 paid for a replacement mobility aid. Air Canada, however, did not have information about the number of passengers who use mobility aids travelling during this eight-month period.

As mentioned above, the tracking of complaints is a useful monitoring tool. However, neither Air Canada or Canadi*n appear to have complete data to be able to clearly identify the magnitude of problems that may exist concerning the transportation of persons with disabilities. One must question how carriers determine, without complete data, how severe problems are for travellers with disabilities and when corrective action might be necessary. For example, if Air Canada were to learn that the 41 reported incidents of damaged wheelchairs were among a small number of wheelchairs carried, the number of reported incidents would then be a greater cause of concern.

It is the Agency's opinion that, where possible, Air Canada and Canadi*n should expand their data collecting processes to include the number of travellers with disabilities, with a further breakdown where necessary, such as the number of those who use mobility aids.

INVOLVEMENT OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN TRAINING PROGRAMS

Concerns were raised that air carriers do not always involve persons with disabilities in the training process. Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's witness states that a videotape presentation is too passive to be an effective teaching method. Dealing with a person with a disability would be beneficial to employees. Ms. Lemieux-Brassard and her witness suggest that different persons with a variety of disabilities should be an integral part of the design and application of air carriers' training programs.

Both Air Canada and Canadi*n submit that the development of their training programs included consultations with persons with disabilities. In addition, during the planning process of Canadi*n's recurrent training for its airport agents in 1998, it will also include consultations with persons with disabilities.

Air Canada and Canadi*n involve persons with disabilities in certain aspects of their training program. The training of Canadi*n's reservations agents does not involve a person with a disability, and airport employees are sometimes joined by one of the carrier's employees who has quadriplegia and uses a service animal for a one-hour discussion. However, he is not present at all training sessions and Canadi*n suggests that persons with disabilities should be asked to speak with the employees during the training. As a result of discussions during the hearing, Canadi*n agreed that it would be a good idea to include persons with disabilities in more of its training programs, and that this possibility will be considered.

Air Canada's training module "Sensitivity Awareness Education" is conducted entirely by persons with disabilities. There are also some occasions during the training of its flight attendants when Air Canada will have one of its employees who uses a wheelchair present for the transferring techniques.

While Air Canada and Canadi*n recognize the importance and the value of having persons with disabilities involved in the planning stages of their training programs, there is not a consistent involvement of persons with disabilities in the delivery of the programs. The Agency agrees that their involvement provides a level of training and understanding which cannot be achieved with other teaching tools. The presence of a person with a disability provides interaction with the employees and the opportunity for employees to ask questions. It is the Agency's opinion that the presence of persons with disabilities allows employees to better understand the needs of persons with disabilities, which will make them more comfortable and confident in providing services to their customers with disabilities.

It is the Agency's opinion that Air Canada and Canadi*n should continue to consult with persons with disabilities when training programs and refresher courses are amended or developed. In addition, Air Canada and Canadi*n should provide a greater level of involvement of persons with disabilities in the delivery of their training programs and refresher course.

STAFFING LEVELS

Concerns were raised regarding the decline in the level of services provided by Air Canada and Canadi*n in the last 12 to 18 months. It is the opinion of Ms. Lemieux-Brassard and her witness that this is largely due to understaffing. Ms. Lemieux-Brassard submits that carrier personnel are increasingly harried and distracted, and she is made to feel like a burden.

Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's witness submits that there is now a greater number of passengers travelling on fewer flights. When airlines are trying to load aircraft on time, with a large number of people moving at the same time, persons with disabilities are more likely to be given a low priority. He is of the opinion that staffing is often inadequate in such situations.

Ms. Lemieux-Brassard suggests that the Agency order carriers to comply with the obligations under the ATR on a priority basis and subject to safety considerations. It was suggested in her closing statement that the effect of such an order would be to ensure adequate staffing, or result in reduced services to other passengers,"whom Parliament has determined do not currently require the Agency's protection".

Contrary to the perception of Ms. Lemieux-Brassard and her witness, both Air Canada and Canadi*n indicate that they have recently increased staffing levels. However, Air Canada explains that staffing is a complex process where 20 different factors are taken into consideration, such as load factors, the type of aircraft, and the type of airports. It is the Agency's opinion that it is up to each air carrier's management to determine the level of staffing needed to conduct its operation. Air carriers must ultimately ensure that they are in compliance with Agency regulations. Therefore, it is up to the carriers to staff with the number of employees that they consider sufficient to allow them to meet their regulatory obligations.

SECTION 4 CARRIER RESPONSES TO DECISION NO. 512-A-1997

AIR CANADA

Background

In Decision No. 512-A-1997, the Agency found that Air Canada's failure to repair the damage to Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's wheelchair promptly following a flight from Calgary to Regina was an undue obstacle to her mobility. While Air Canada has a policy of having damaged mobility aids dealt with at its baggage claim counter, this was not proposed by the two mechanics and the flight attendant who were aware of the damage to Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's wheelchair. As a result, Air Canada was required by the Agency to ensure that employees who come in contact with persons with disabilities upon deplaning are informed that they must direct passengers with wheelchair repair problems to the baggage claims area, where the carrier will handle wheelchair damage claims. Air Canada was also required to submit to the Agency confirmation of this training and a schedule identifying when these employee groups will receive the necessary training.

Response of Air Canada

In response to the Agency Decision, Air Canada submitted amendments made to its publications Safety and Emergency Procedures - Cabin Personnel and Performance and Operation Standards to include its damaged wheelchair procedure. These publications now instruct cabin personnel who witness damaged mobility aids to direct customers to baggage claim counters in arrival areas at airports. In-charge flight attendants are also instructed to report the incident internally.

Air Canada explains that as there are no aircraft mechanics in Regina, baggage agents helped reassemble Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's wheelchair, and they have already been trained to direct customers to baggage services counters. Nonetheless, the carrier reminded its baggage agents and other employees of this responsibility in interAction, a publication that provides operational information to Air Canada's customer service employees and a copy of which was submitted to the Agency.

Therefore, as mechanics do not come into contact with customers, Air Canada submits that it only had to extend the training on this matter to its flight attendants. As such, Air Canada has added its damaged wheelchair procedure to its flight attendant recurrent training. The next recurrent training was to be provided from February 1998 to February 1999.

Agency Findings

The Agency has considered the evidence submitted by Air Canada and finds that the measures undertaken by Air Canada concerning the employee training provided on its damaged wheelchair procedure satisfy the requirements of Decision No. 512-A-1997. The Agency is of the view that this additional training combined with reminders to employees will assist in preventing the recurrence of the situation experienced by Ms. Lemieux-Brassard and in eliminating undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities.

In light of the above, the Agency does not contemplate any further action with respect to this matter, except to request that Air Canada provide verification that the additional training has been completed.

CANADI*N

Background

The Agency, in Decision No. 512-A-1997, determined that the manner in which Canadi*n's contracted security personnel performed the security search of Ms. Lemieux-Brassard at the Vancouver airport was an undue obstacle to her mobility. Canadi*n was therefore required to ensure that the contracted personnel have been trained in accordance with the Training Regulations. The carrier was required to submit a report on the measures it will implement to meet this obligation.

The Agency also found that Canadi*n's failure to provide Ms. Lemieux-Brassard with a suitable temporary replacement wheelchair in Whitehorse was a contravention of subsection 155(1) of the ATR. Furthermore, the Agency found that being provided with a manual wheelchair replacement, without outer rims, at the Whitehorse airport constituted an undue obstacle to her mobility. Canadi*n was therefore required to submit to the Agency the procedures it will implement to meet this regulatory requirement in the future to ensure that these situations do not reoccur.

With respect to the gate assignment in Montréal, which resulted in two Canadi*n employees manually carrying Ms. Lemieux-Brassard down one set of stairs and dropping her, the Agency determined that there was no undue obstacle to her mobility. However, in light of the adjustments being implemented at the Montréal airport Gate 8B, Canadi*n was requested to submit a report on the progress in the implementation of these corrective measures.

Response of Canadi*n

Canadi*n provided a copy of the security contract it administers at the Vancouver airport. The contract contains a clause that requires the security service provider to "...comply with all regulatory requirements pertaining to the subject matter of this agreement...". Canadi*n also submitted a copy of a letter from the security service provider at the Vancouver airport, which states that its security personnel have been trained pursuant to Transport Canada requirements, which includes dealing with persons with disabilities. The security service provider has also implemented a separate course in British Columbia, which addresses how to deal with persons with disabilities.

In addition, Canadi*n provided a copy of a letter in which the security service provider confirms that all employees in Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George and Prince Rupert, and some employees in Vancouver, have received additional training on how to serve persons with disabilities. The security service provider expected to train the rest of the employees in Vancouver, and all employees in Cranbrook, Comox and Campbell River in early 1998.

Canadi*n also addressed the matter of procedures with which it would meet the regulatory requirement of providing, when necessary, a suitable temporary replacement wheelchair in Whitehorse. Canadi*n explains that it does have one temporary manual wheelchair with handrails available at the Whitehorse airport. Ms. Lemieux-Brassard was not provided with this wheelchair because she could not be accommodated in it. The manual chair she used, however, has now been retrofitted with new wheels with handrails, which will allow Canadi*n to use it as a temporary manual replacement.

Canadi*n advises that it issued an electronic bulletin reminding employees of the carrier's damaged and lost wheelchair procedures, which includes immediately making arrangements to provide a suitable temporary replacement, and if no rental company is available, to contact the nearest hospital or ambulance service.

However, Canadi*n submits that there are over 100 different types of powered mobility aids. Facilities that can provide such devices are not found outside major metropolitan centres, which, Canadi*n states, makes it impossible for it to comply with subsection 155(1) of the ATR. The only other solution offered by Canadi*n in its written submission was to transport the passenger to the nearest centre where an appropriate aid could be obtained and fitted.

As identified earlier in this Decision, other solutions were discussed during the hearing, one of which was the provision of an attendant to push a temporary manual wheelchair when an electric wheelchair cannot be provided to a person who requires one. Canadi*n states that its policy only includes providing a temporary replacement wheelchair. When a person's electric wheelchair has been damaged or lost and a temporary manual wheelchair is the only temporary replacement available, Canadi*n does not provide the services of an attendant to push the wheelchair. Canadi*n states that the provision of an attendant was not well explored during the hearing. Therefore, it submits that the Agency should not require it to provide such a service unless this issue is identified as a major concern, in which case there should be further study.

The last issue addressed in Canadi*n's submission involves the modifications that were to be made at gate 8B at the Dorval airport to enable the carrier to position a BAE146 aircraft at the bridge, which is at the same level as the arrival/departure area. Canadi*n submits that such modifications would preclude other aircraft types from using the bridge. As a result, Canadi*n would discuss a permanent solution with Air Atlantic regarding deplaning procedures for passengers who are not able to use the existing manual deplaning procedures. Interim measures will include manual deplaning of passengers in some instances. Otherwise, after all other passengers have deplaned, the aircraft will be pushed back from the gate to use the mechanical lifting device.

In a subsequent submission, Canadi*n explains that a handling procedure has been put into effect for BAE146 arrivals at gates 35 and 37. With any prior notice from Ottawa or Halifax that a person who uses a wheelchair is onboard, every effort is made to have the aircraft parked at gate 10, which is wheelchair accessible.

Canadi*n also states that the Aéroports de Montréal (hereinafter ADM) will assume control of gates 35 and 37. In the past, when they took ownership of other carrier bridges, ADM refurbished bridges and installed wheelchair lifts. Canadi*n hopes that the ADM will do the same at these gates. However, even if lifts are installed at gates 35 and 37, these gates will not be completely accessible to persons who use wheelchairs. The BAE146 has a forward entry door that requires a bridge modification with a step down prior to entering the aircraft. Passengers who use wheelchairs would still have to be physically lifted into the aircraft.

Agency Findings

In making its findings, the Agency has considered all of the evidence submitted by Canadi*n in its written submissions and during the hearing. The Agency finds that the measures undertaken concerning the training of security personnel at the Vancouver airport satisfy the requirements of Decision No.512-A-1997. In light of the continuing efforts by the security service provider to provide additional training to the Vancouver employees, the Agency requests that Canadi*n provide verification that the training has been completed.

The Agency also finds that Canadi*n satisfied the requirements of Decision No. 512-A-1997 in keeping the Agency informed of the progress being made to provide a greater level of accessibility between a BAE146 aircraft and the terminal at the Dorval airport. In light of the continuing efforts being made in this area, the Agency requests that Canadi*n continue to keep the Agency informed of the additional measures that might be put in place by either the carrier or the ADM.

The Agency is of the view that the assurances provided to Canadi*n that the security service provider's employees continue to receive training on the handling of persons with disabilities and the continued efforts to improve accessibility at the Dorval airport will assist in preventing the recurrence of the situations experienced by Ms. Lemieux-Brassard.

The matter involving replacement mobility aids at the Whitehorse airport is addressed in Sections 3 and 5 of this Decision.

FIRST AIR

Background

In Decision No. 512-A-1997, the Agency found that the incomplete information received by Ms. Lemieux-Brassard from her travel agent regarding the travel options available to her was not a result of an undue obstacle caused by First Air. However, in light of corrective measures taken by First Air concerning the limited information contained in its computer reservation system, First Air was requested to keep the Agency informed on the progress being made in its efforts to upgrade its system. First Air was also requested to submit a copy of the additional information concerning the transportation of persons with disabilities that it proposes to include in the new SABRE system.

Response of First Air

In response to the Agency Decision, First Air advises that it changed its computer reservation system to the SABRE system on November 6, 1997, but communications problems continued. Dealing with these problems has caused the input of reference information in the new system to fall behind schedule.

In the interim, First Air provided a summary of information that would be entered in the system: Agency regulations, corporate policy, definitions, service information, aircraft information, standard information, standard procedures, and special procedures (for example, when a small aircraft is used and cannot accommodate mobility aids in baggage compartments). In addition, the carrier submitted a printout of the information currently in the SABRE system, which it states incorporates the majority of the information outlined in its summary as it related to aircraft under 30 seats, and specific additional information such as seat charts for aircraft over 30 seats.

Until all information is added to the SABRE system, First Air reservations and airport counter locations are using hard copy printouts of RES II reference information. The carrier will attempt to update and input this information, and input additional information to the SABRE system as soon as time permits, and a copy of additional general information will be forwarded when it is entered. This information may contain references to procedures for persons with disabilities; for example, reference would be made in the free and excess baggage charges area that mobility aids are included under free baggage allowance.

Agency Findings

The Agency has considered all of the evidence submitted by First Air in making its findings. With respect to the computer reservation system upgrade, the Agency finds that First Air has satisfied the requirements of Decision No. 512-A-1997 in keeping the Agency informed of the progress being made in its efforts to upgrade its system to the SABRE system. While First Air has not yet provided a copy of all the additional information concerning the transportation of persons with disabilities that it proposes to include in the new SABRE system, an outline was submitted along with a printout of the information currently in the SABRE system, and the explanation provided for this shortcoming appears to be reasonable.

In light of the continued telecommunications difficulties being experienced by First Air, the Agency requests First Air to continue to keep it informed of the progress being made, and to provide a copy of the additional information concerning the transportation of persons with disabilities that will be added to the SABRE system as soon as it becomes available.

SECTION 5 CONCLUSION

The Agency has considered all of the evidence submitted by the parties in making its findings. In light of the submissions made by the parties, the Agency has determined that the following additional corrective measures are required to prevent the recurrence of the situations experienced by Ms. Lemieux-Brassard and to assist in eliminating undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities.

AIR CANADA AND AIR NOVA

  1. With respect to accessible seating, Air Canada and Air Nova are required to expand on the type of seats they designate as accessible seats to include a reasonable number of seats that provide features such as extra leg room and proximity to washrooms and exits, including bulkhead seats. The carriers must submit these seating designation changes to the Agency within 90 days of the date of this Decision, along with a report on the communication of these changes to employees and travel agents. (See p. 16)
  2. Air Canada and Air Nova are also required to provide clear instructions to their employees and travel agents of their accessible seating policies and procedures, including their seat override policies. In addition, the carriers must amend their training programs, including refresher courses, for employees involved in seat assignments to include instructions on the carriers' accessible seating policies and procedures. A copy of the instructions provided to employees and travel agents, as well as the amended training programs must be submitted to the Agency within 90 days of the date of this Decision. (See p. 18)
  3. With regard to wheelchair handling procedures, Air Canada is required to ensure that every employee who might have to assemble or disassemble mobility aids, such as baggage agents, receive the necessary training to perform these tasks. Air Canada must also submit to the Agency, within 90 days of the date of this Decision, a list of the additional employee groups that will receive the Module 3 (Description, Handling and Loading of Wheelchairs) training and a training schedule. (See p. 20)
  4. With respect to wheelchair repair and replacement procedures, Air Canada is required to produce a brochure to outline repair options for damaged and lost mobility aids, which includes provisions relating to replacement aids. The carrier is also required to amend its training program and electronic information to clearly and completely reflect the services provided to persons with disabilities pursuant to the ATR, as they relate to damaged or lost mobility aids. A copy of the text for the proposed brochure must be submitted to the Agency within 90 days of the date of this Decision, along with the time frame within which it plans to complete the brochure, its plan for distribution, the proposed modes of communication used to inform employees of this change in procedures, and resulting changes to its training program. (See p. 23)
  5. In addition, Air Canada must require its employees to inform persons with disabilities, within one hour of being notified that a wheelchair is damaged or lost, of the arrangements it is able to make concerning a replacement. Air Canada must submit to the Agency, within 90 days of the date of this Decision, a copy of this new policy, along with its plan to ensure that its employees and travel agents are aware of it. The plan should include an amendment to its employee training program. (See p. 25)
  6. With respect to the confirmation of services, Air Canada is required to implement a system that will allow it to record in reservation records the services that it will provide to each person with a disability. Air Canada must also make the necessary adjustments to its training program to reflect this change. In the interim, the carrier must ensure that employees are made aware of this change. Air Canada is required to submit an amended training program to the Agency, within 90 days of the date of this Decision, along with a confirmation of the communication of the change to the employees. (See p. 27)
  7. With respect to the communication of information, Air Canada and Air Nova are required to add to their computer reservation systems information concerning check-in procedures at particular airports that differ from those for persons who do not require assistance. The carriers are also required to ensure that their employees offer to inform persons with disabilities of the check-in procedures, and provide written confirmation upon request. In addition, the carriers must advise their travel agents to provide the same service. The carriers must submit to the Agency, within 90 days from the date of this Decision, their timetable for implementing these changes, an indication of the information that will be added to their system, and their plans for informing employees and travel agents. (See p. 29)
  8. With respect to monitoring, Air Canada is requested to remind employees of its policies concerning the reporting of incidents involving persons with disabilities, whether or not the customer files an official complaint and to submit a copy of the reminder to the Agency within 90 days from the date of this Decision. In addition, where possible, Air Canada is requested to expand its data collection process to include the number of travellers with disabilities with further breakdowns where necessary, such as the number of those who use mobility aids, and to inform the Agency, within 90 days of the date of this Decision, of the improvement made to its data collection process. (See p. 30)
  9. Concerning the involvement of persons with disabilities in training programs, Air Canada is requested to continue to consult with persons with disabilities when training programs and refresher courses are developed or amended. Air Canada is also requested to ensure a greater level of involvement of persons with disabilities in the delivery of training programs and refresher courses, and to inform the Agency within 90 days of the date of this Decision, of the measures it plans to implement to ensure the involvement of persons with disabilities during the development and delivery of its training program. (See p. 35)

CANADI*N

  1. With respect to accessible seating, Canadi*n is required to expand on the type of seats it designates as accessible seats to include a reasonable number of seats that provide features such as extra leg room and proximity to washrooms and exits, including bulkhead seats. The carrier must submit these seating designation changes to the Agency within 90 days of the date of this Decision, along with a report on the communication of these changes to employees and travel agents. (See p. 16)
  2. In addition, Canadi*n is required to issue a reminder to reservation agents, airport agents and travel agents, concerning the location of seat maps to assist them in the assignment of accessible seats. This information should also include a reminder of where to find the explanation for the code used to designate seats as accessible. Canadi*n must submit a copy of this reminder to the Agency within 90 days from the date of this Decision. (See p. 17)
  3. Canadi*n is also required to provide clear instructions to their employees and travel agents of its accessible seating policies and procedures, including its seat override policies. The carrier must also amend its training program, including refresher courses, for employees involved in seat assignments to include instructions on the carrier's accessible seating policies and procedures. A copy of the instructions provided to employees and travel agents, as well as the amended training program must be submitted to the Agency within 90 days of the date of this Decision. (See p. 18)
  4. With respect to wheelchair handling procedures, Canadi*n is required to identify the most commonly used tools needed to disassemble mobility aids and ensure that each of the airports it serves is so equipped. The list of these tools must be easily accessible to allow employees and travel agents to be able to correctly and consistently inform passengers of the need to provide certain tools. Canadi*n must submit the list to the Agency within 90 days of the date of this Decision, along with a description of how employees and travel agents were informed. (See p. 19)
  5. Canadi*n is also required to proceed with its initiative to amend its initial training program and refresher course to provide more detailed instructions to employees required to handle wheelchairs on how to disassemble and assemble electric wheelchairs, including practical training with electric wheelchairs and batteries. Canadi*n must submit to the Agency, within 90 days of the date of this Decision, a copy of its amended initial training program and refresher course scheduled for 1998, including a list of the types of electric wheelchairs that will be used in its amended initial training program and the refresher course. (See p. 20)
  6. With respect to wheelchair repair and replacement procedures, Canadi*n is required to produce a brochure to outline repair options for damaged or lost mobility aids, which includes provisions relating to replacement aids. The carrier is also required to amend its training program and electronic information to clearly and completely reflect the services provided to persons with disabilities pursuant to the ATR, as they relate to damaged and lost mobility aids. A copy of the text of the proposed brochure must be submitted to the Agency within 90 days of the date of this Decision, along with the time frame within which it plans to complete the brochure, its plan for distribution, the proposed modes of communication used to inform employees of this change in procedures, and resulting amendments to the training program. (See p. 23)
  7. Canadi*n is also requested to continue with its efforts to develop a list of the local establishments that can repair mobility aids and provide replacements. Canadi*n is also requested to provide that list to employees responsible for wheelchair repairs, and submit to the Agency, within 90 days of the date of this Decision, a status report on the progress made in the development of a list at its different bases. (See p. 25)
  8. In addition, Canadi*n is required to develop a policy to ensure that a person with a disability is provided with a temporary independent means of mobility when the carrier has damaged or lost the person's electric wheelchair. Canadi*n must also require its employees to inform persons with disabilities within one hour of being notified that a wheelchair is damaged or lost of the arrangements it is able to make concerning a replacement. Canadi*n must submit to the Agency, within 90 days of the date of this Decision, copies of these new policies, along with its plan to ensure that its employees and travel agents are aware of it. The plan should include an amendment to its employee training program. (See p. 25)
  9. With respect to the confirmation of services, Canadi*n is required to provide a written confirmation of the services it will provide to each person with a disability. Canadi*n must also make the necessary adjustments to its training program to reflect this change. In the interim, the carrier must ensure that employees are made aware of this change. Canadi*n must submit an amended training program to the Agency within 90 days of the date of this Decision, along with a confirmation of the communication of the change to employees. (See p. 27)
  10. With respect to the communication of information, Canadi*n is required to add to its computer reservation system information concerning check-in procedures at particular airports that differ from those for persons who do not require assistance. The carrier is also required to ensure that its employees offer to inform persons with disabilities of the check-in procedures and provide written confirmation upon request. In addition, the carrier must advise its travel agents to provide the same service. The carrier must submit to the Agency, within 90 days from the date of this Decision, its timetable for implementing these changes, an indication of the information that will be added to its system, and its plan for informing employees and travel agents. (See p. 29)
  11. With respect to monitoring, Canadi*n is requested to remind employees of its policies concerning the reporting of incidents involving persons with disabilities, whether or not the customer files an official complaint, and to submit a copy of the reminder to the Agency within 90 days of the date of this Decision. (See p. 30)
  12. In addition, Canadi*n is required to add information to its computer system about the regulatory requirement to inform persons with disabilities of the Agency's complaint process if the carrier is unable to resolve a complaint to the satisfaction of the passenger. Canadi*n is also required to communicate this information to those employees most likely to receive complaints from persons with disabilities. Furthermore, Canadi*n should ensure that this information is communicated to persons with disabilities, when necessary. Canadi*n must submit to the Agency, within 90 days from the date of this Decision, a copy of the electronic information and the bulletin to employees. (See p. 31)
  13. Where possible, Canadi*n is requested to expand its data collection process to include the number of travellers with disabilities, with further breakdowns where necessary, such as the number of those who use mobility aids, and to inform the Agency, within 90 days of the date of this Decision, of the improvements made to its data collection process. (See p. 34)
  14. With regard to the involvement of persons with disabilities in training programs, Canadi*n is requested to continue to consult with persons with disabilities when training programs and refresher courses are developed or amended. In addition, Canadi*n is requested to ensure a greater level of involvement of persons with disabilities in the delivery of training programs and refresher courses, and to inform the Agency, within 90 days of the date of this Decision, of the measures it plans to implement to ensure the involvement of persons with disabilities during the development and delivery of its training programs. (See p. 35)

SECTION 6 THE ROAD AHEAD

As was demonstrated in Ms. Lemieux-Brassard's case, while there has been progress in the level of accessibility of air travel, there is still room for improvement. Initiatives continue to be implemented by the airline industry, consumer groups and the Agency to assist in the removal of undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities. During the hearing, Canadi*n and Air Canada identified corrective measures that could be introduced, along with enhancements that could be made to the services being provided to travellers with disabilities.

The Agency is of the opinion, however, that in partnership, the air industry, the community of persons with disabilities and the Agency can continue to work together to achieve a more accessible air transportation network.

In the fall of 1997, the Agency released the Communication Barriers Report, A Look at Barriers to Communication facing Persons with Disabilities who Travel by Air. This report is an example of enhanced cooperation of the industry, consumers and the Agency. As in previous initiatives, consultations were carried out with interested groups, which assist the Agency in its efforts to improve the level of accessibility of the national transportation network. For example, a workshop was organized jointly by the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC), Air Canada, Canadi*n and the Agency on February 26, 1997 in Toronto. The workshop was attended by organizations representing persons with disabilities, air carriers and Transport Canada. The participants looked at the communication obstacles faced by airline passengers who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired. Solutions to improve the situation were also offered. The workshop provided an opportunity for air carriers to hear directly about the recurrent obstacles travellers with disabilities encounter.

Consultations with interested groups provide many views, concerns and suggestions that are taken into consideration by the Agency before completing each initiative. An additional benefit from the consultations associated with the Communication Barriers Report was the creation of four joint industry, consumer and government working groups to tackle specific issues concerning the communication of information to persons with disabilities.

A project of importance that will be tackled by one of these groups is the creation of an information brochure on air travel for persons with disabilities. It will provide information concerning the reservation process, reaching the airport, the check-in process, services provided by air carriers, etc. The joint participation of air carriers, consumers and the Agency in the development of the brochure will ensure that the final product meets the needs of all those concerned and will serve to bridge the information gap experienced by travellers with disabilities.

Another initiative is to reach out to travel agents and tour operators because of the important role the reservation process plays in the ultimate goal of travelling without undue obstacles. The evidence during the hearing showed that approximately 75 to 80 percent of all travel arrangements are made by travel agents. It is therefore crucial that both the traveller with a disability and the air carrier are provided with the necessary information to ensure a successful transportation experience.

Another means is the Agency's participation, as an exhibitor, in travel industry shows sponsored by the Alliance of Canadian Travel Associations (ACTA) at the request of the Canadian Institutes of Travel Counsellors (CITC). The Agency has participated at shows in British Columbia and Quebec, and will continue to participate at similar events across Canada in 1998. Such partnerships help to enhance the collaboration between customers with disabilities, airlines, travel agents and the Agency.

The Agency intends to expand this collaborative partnership in the coming year by widely disseminating information about accessible transportation to travel agencies. An important mechanism for delivering its message will be a special edition of the Agency's Moving Ahead newsletter to be published in early 1998. It will contain information to specifically assist travel agents in serving customers with disabilities. In addition, the Agency is in the process of developing a checklist to assist travel agents when making reservations on behalf of customers with disabilities. This tool should help travel agents to ensure that the necessary arrangements have been completed at the time of reservation so that the services needed by a traveller with a disability will be available at each stage of the journey.

While various areas of the air transportation network in Canada present obstacles to travellers with disabilities, many individuals, organizations, carriers, along with the Agency, are making efforts to improve the system. The Agency is convinced that these efforts will continue, and air travel will increasingly become more easily accessible to persons with disabilities.

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