Decision No. 184-AT-A-2005

March 31, 2005

March 31, 2005

IN THE MATTER OF Decision No. 487-AT-A-2003 dated August 22, 2003 - Stephen Sedrovic versus Air Transat A.T. Inc. carrying on business as Air Transat.

File No. U3570/03-10


BACKGROUND

In its Decision No. 487-AT-A-2003 dated August 22, 2003, the Canadian Transportation Agency (hereinafter the Agency) made a determination with respect to an application filed by Bryan Sedrovic, on behalf of his son Stephen Sedrovic. The application pertained to the failure by Air Transat A.T. Inc. carrying on business as Air Transat (hereinafter Air Transat) to deliver Stephen Sedrovic's personal wheelchair at the door of the aircraft and to the level of assistance provided by Air Transat's personnel upon deplaning in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on February 1, 2003.

L'Office a déterminé que l'omission par le personnel d'Air Transat de livrer le fauteuil roulant de Stephen Sedrovic à la porte de l'aéronef ainsi que la façon dont le préposé au services d'escale a fourni de l'assistance avec fauteuil roulant à Stephen Sedrovic de la porte de l'aéronef à la zone de récupération des bagages à l'aéroport international de Calgary ont constitué des obstacles abusifs aux possibilités de déplacement de Stephen Sedrovic. L'Office a également déterminé que l'omission d'entamer un dialogue avec les Sedrovic ainsi que le manque de sensibilité et de réceptivité aux besoins particuliers de Stephen Sedrovic en matière de déplacement sont une indication quant au défaut du préposé au service d'escale de se conformer aux politiques et aux procédures établies d'Air Transat, ce qui dénote également un manque de la part d'Air Transat à fournir un niveau adéquat de formation de son personnel relativement aux politiques et procédures établies d'Air Transat en ce qui a trait aux personnes ayant une déficience.

The Agency determined that the failure by Air Transat to bring Stephen Sedrovic's wheelchair to the door of the aircraft along with the manner in which the Air Transat ground handling agent provided wheelchair assistance to Mr. Sedrovic from the aircraft door to the baggage claim area at Calgary International Airport constituted undue obstacles to Stephen Sedrovic's mobility. The Agency also determined that Air Transat's failure to enter into an appropriate level of communication with the Sedrovics, as well as the lack of sensitivity to, and awareness of, Stephen Sedrovic's mobility needs were indicative of the ground handling agent's failure to follow Air Transat's established policies and procedures, which was itself indicative of the failure on the part of Air Transat to provide appropriate personnel training on its policies and procedures concerning persons with disabilities. As such, the Agency found that the level of service provided by Air Transat personnel during the deplaning process constituted an undue obstacle to Stephen Sedrovic's mobility as it was an unjustifiable departure from Air Transat's established policies, and, pursuant to the Agency's Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations, SOR/94-42 (hereinafter the Training Regulations), Air Transat ground personnel should have received training on the carrier's policies and procedures with respect to persons with disabilities.

Pursuant to Decision No. 487-AT-A-2003, Air Transat was directed by the Agency to take the following measures within thirty (30) and sixty (60) days from the date of that Decision.

  1. forward a written apology directly to the Sedrovics with respect to their travel experience and provide a copy to the Agency;
  2. provide the Agency with a copy of the Air Transat training program, including information set out in Schedule (Section 11) to the Training Regulations;
  3. provide the Agency with the training records of the Air Transat agents involved in
    1. the redirection of Stephen Sedrovic's wheelchair to the baggage claim area;
    2. the failure to provide adequate services upon deplaning; and,
    3. the provision of wheelchair assistance to Stephen Sedrovic, at the Calgary International Airport on February 1, 2003;
  4. prepare a contingency plan to ensure that Air Transat personnel will be available to provide access to the elevator at the boarding gate where required to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities, including the ability to bring a personal wheelchair to the gate; and,
  5. issue a bulletin to Air Transat personnel and contractors at the Calgary International Airport emphasizing the importance of awareness of and sensitivity to the particular needs of passengers with disabilities. The bulletin should reinforce the importance of following the carrier's policies and procedures with respect to persons with disabilities.

On September 22, 2003, Air Transat submitted its response to the Agency. Subsequent to Air Transat's response, discussions were held with Agency staff in order to clarify certain matters and, in response to Agency staff requests, Air Transat made further submissions on June 10 and November 4, 2004 and January 10, 2005.

ISSUE

The issue to be addressed is whether the measures taken by Air Transat meet the requirements of Decision No. 487-AT-A-2003.

FACTS

On September 22, 2003, Air Transat submitted to the Agency:

  1. a copy of its letter of apology to the Sedrovic family dated September 3, 2003;
  2. a copy of its training program for Air Transat personnel including its contracted ground handlers;
  3. a copy of the training records of the Air Transat personnel and contracted ground handlers responsible for the redirection of Stephen Sedrovic's wheelchair and the provision of wheelchair assistance to Mr. Sedrovic at the Calgary International Airport on February 1, 2003;
  4. a copy of Air Transat's revised handling plan at the Calgary International Airport for the delivery of mobility aids from its aircraft to the concourse level of the airport; and,
  5. a copy of Air Transat's Ground Services Reminder dated September 18, 2003 sent to ground services personnel reiterating the carrier's policy and procedures with respect to persons with disabilities.

Subsequent to Air Transat's initial filing with the Agency on September 22, 2003, the carrier also provided the Agency with a copy of its updated Ground Services Passenger Handling Manual and a copy of its Ground Services Training DVD in June and November 2004.

Air Transat believes that the release of its revised Ground Services Passenger Handling Manual along with its new training program for contracted ground handlers should prevent occurrences similar to those experienced by Stephen Sedrovic. Air Transat states that, "these combined projects make up the Air Transat Training Program that will be referenced by our contracted Ground Handlers system wide ... the application of their training programs will be closely monitored and audited by our Ground Services team and Regional Managers around the world to ensure that the initial and refresher training programs are consistently delivered to all front line staff." In particular, all contracted ground handlers, passenger agents and on-board personnel working for Air Transat must complete an initial four-hour course on assisting persons with disabilities as part of their initial training along with refresher training once every two years.

Air Transat has put in place a contingency plan for the Calgary International Airport to bring passenger personal mobility aids to the gate upon arrival. The plan was put in place shortly after this incident in June 2003 and a system-wide plan is under development to address this problem at all airports served by Air Transat.

The Air Transat Ground Services Reminder bulletin issued on September 18, 2003 reminds personnel that the most important rule in dealing with a person with a disability is to have a dialogue with him/her to find out exactly what his/her needs are, what he/she requires from Air Transat personnel, and what kind of support or assistance is required either enplaning or deplaning the aircraft. Air Transat states that the needs of each person with a disability are different and that assumptions should not be made on the carrier's part as to what may be required.

Finally, Air Transat reiterates that all ground services personnel along with cabin crew members are to follow Air Transat policies and procedures set out in the revised Air Transat Ground Services Passenger Handling Manual.

ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS

The Agency has reviewed the training records of the Air Transat employees and contracted ground handlers on duty when Stephen Sedrovic deplaned in Calgary on February 1, 2003. Following a review of the records, the Agency noted that the ground handlers on duty had taken their mandatory disability-awareness training within six months of their employment with the carrier as required by the Training Regulations and that the Air Transat Flight Supervisor had taken her training in May 2002.

The Agency has also reviewed the contingency plan put in place by Air Transat at Calgary International Airport for the transport of mobility aids from the aircraft to the concourse level of the airport upon arrival. The Agency notes that the original plan submitted by Air Transat in June 2003 only dealt with the delivery of "gate-tagged" electric wheelchairs. However, in August 2003, Air Transat revised this procedure to include all "gate tagged" personal wheelchairs for persons with disabilities. As a result of the new procedure put in place by Air Transat, the Agency is satisfied there will not be a recurrence of the problems experienced by Stephen Sedrovic on February 1, 2003.

The Agency has reviewed Air Transat's personnel training programs for ground handlers and cabin attendants along with Air Transat's revised Schedule (Section 11), particularly with respect to those provisions which address the concerns raised in Mr. Sedrovic's application. Specifically, the Agency reviewed all of the documents filed by Air Transat and finds that the revised Air Transat training program addresses the weaknesses regarding the carrier's training as noted in Decision No. 487-AT-A-2003. Specifically, the Agency notes that Air Transat's revised Ground Services Passenger Handling Manual states that all mobility aids must be handled as priority baggage and delivered to the gate upon arrival of the person with a disability. In particular, the Air Transat arrival agent must be at the bridge or gate 15 minutes prior to the estimated time of arrival of the flight and ensure that there are enough wheelchairs for the arrival of passengers. The arrivals agent is also responsible for making sure that the ground handlers are aware and prepared to deliver all mobility aids directly to the door of the aircraft.

The Air Transat Ground Services Passenger Handling Manual dated June 10, 2004, also states that all personnel assisting persons with disabilities must receive disability awareness training in compliance with the Training Regulations. The specific procedures state that "the most important aspect to remember when providing service and assistance to any passenger with a disability is to ask them what their needs are, and to treat them with sensitivity and respect." Once this information is known, it must be passed on to the flight crew to ensure consistent service throughout the person's flight with the carrier.

In closing, the Agency has also examined the contents of Air Transat's Ground Services Reminder bulletin sent to all personnel on September 18, 2003 and finds that the carrier described in detail the undue obstacles experienced by Stephen Sedrovic upon deplaning the aircraft at airport. The Agency also notes the remedial actions taken by the carrier such that an incident of this nature does not recur.

CONCLUSION

In light of the foregoing, the Agency is satisfied that Air Transat has met the requirements of Decision No. 487-AT-A-2003. Accordingly, the Agency does not contemplate any further action in this matter.

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