Decision No. 185-AT-A-2005

March 31, 2005

March 31, 2005

IN THE MATTER OF Decision No. 78-AT-A-2003 dated February 19, 2003 - Linda Zahara vs. Air Transat A.T. Inc. carrying on business as Air Transat.

File No. U3570/02-48


BACKGROUND

[1] In its Decision No. 78-AT-A-2003 dated February 19, 2003, the Canadian Transportation Agency (hereinafter the Agency) made a determination with respect to an application filed by Dennis Zahara on behalf of Linda Zahara. The application concerned the seating assignment and the level of deplaning assistance provided by Air Transat A.T. Inc. carrying on business as Air Transat (hereinafter Air Transat) to Mrs. Zahara on a flight between Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and Cancun, Mexico on August 25, 2002.

[2] The Agency determined that the failure by Air Transat's cabin crew to use the on-board wheelchair to facilitate the transfer of Mrs. Zahara from her seat to the door of the aircraft, and the lack of a proper boarding wheelchair for deplaning assistance constituted undue obstacles to Mrs. Zahara's mobility.

[3] Pursuant to the Decision, the Agency required Air Transat to undertake three corrective measures within thirty (30) days from the date of the Decision.

[4] On March 20, 2003, Air Transat requested an extension until April 4, 2003 to comply with the requirements of the Decision. In its Decision No. LET-AT-A-71-2003 dated March 25, 2003, the Agency granted the requested extension, and on April 3, 2003, Air Transat filed its response. 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, November 4, 2004, and on January 10, 2005.

ISSUE

[5] The issue to be addressed is whether the measures taken by Air Transat meet the requirements of the Decision.

FIRST CORRECTIVE MEASURE

[6] The first corrective measure set out in the Decision required Air Transat to provide the Agency with a copy of its training program for flight attendants and contracted employees providing assistance to persons with disabilities. The Agency also required that Air Transat submit the training records of the personnel involved in this incident, including the dates of their initial training and any subsequent refresher training.

Facts

[7] On April 3, 2003, Air Transat filed its response to the Decision. In its response, Air Transat stated that it had previously supplied background information to the Agency concerning this incident on November 20, 2002, including extracts from its April 1999 Ground Services Training Program. Air Transat also specified that it was in the process of updating its Ground Services Passenger Handling Manual (hereinafter the revised Passenger handling Manual) to be given to contracted ground handlers for its duty stations worldwide. Air Transat advised that its revised Passenger Handling Manual, along with its revised Schedule (Section 11) to the Agency's Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations, SOR/94-42 would likely be completed and sent to the Agency in 2004.

[8] On June 10, 2004, Air Transat filed its revised Passenger Handling Manual along with its completed Schedule (Section 11) and on January 10, 2005, Air Transat filed its revised Cabin Attendant Training Manual which is given to new employees and is also used in its annual training. The program outlines the steps to be taken by attendants in meeting the needs of passengers with disabilities.

[9] Air Transat also provided the Agency with a copy of the training records of the personnel involved in this incident along with an advisory bulletin sent by Air Transat to all carrier personnel highlighting the incident experienced by Mrs. Zahara on her flight to Cancun.

Position

[10] Air Transat states that its revised Passenger Handling Manual along with its Ground Services Training DVD (hereinafter the training DVD) which was also filed with the Agency on November 4, 2004, currently make up the Air Transat Training Program and it will be used by contracted ground handlers system-wide. Air Transat advises that the provision of training will be closely monitored and audited by its 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 personnel. In addition, Air Transat notes that it continually reminds personnel around the world by way of bulletins, meetings, ongoing training sessions and through periodic audits of its expectations with respect to training and the services to be provided to persons with disabilities.

Analysis and findings

[11] The Agency has examined 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 Mrs. Zahara's application. The Agency has reviewed the information submitted and finds that the revised Air Transat material addresses the concerns with respect to the carrier's training as noted in the Decision. In particular, the Agency notes that the revised Passenger Handling Manual includes:

  1. updated procedures on how to properly transfer a person with a disability from their aircraft seat to the exit door using the cabin on-board wheelchair;
  2. a seating chart for each aircraft in the Air Transat fleet which will enable ticket counter agents and cabin crew members to select the appropriate seats available for persons with disabilities; and
  3. a communication strategy to be used by Air Transat personnel in their interaction with persons with disabilities.

In addition, the Agency notes that there is a separate module outlining the steps that attendants should take in transferring passengers with mobility impairments from the boarding gate to their assigned seat along with the safe transfer of a passenger with a disability up or down the steps of the aircraft. In the Decision, the Agency found that the method used by Air Transat personnel in the transfer of Mrs. Zahara from the aircraft while deplaning in Cancun constituted an undue obstacle to her mobility. The procedures outlined in the revised Passenger Handling Manual should help prevent this type of situation from recurring.

[12] The Agency's review of the training records supplied by Air Transat for the personnel involved in this incident has shown that all the employees had received initial training in disability awareness and had taken refresher training.

[13] The training DVD is also a useful tool in assisting carrier instructors in the delivery of training to contracted ground handling personnel on providing services to passengers with disabilities. The use of the training DVD at each of Air Transat's duty stations should help ensure that initial and refresher training is consistent with Air Transat's revised Passenger Handling Manual.

[14] In light of the foregoing, the Agency concludes that Air Transat has met the first corrective measure as outlined in the Decision No. 78-AT-A-2003. Furthermore, the Agency is satisfied that Air Transat's revised training program and revised Passenger Handling Manual address the concerns raised by Mrs. Zahara's submission with respect to:

  1. its personnel's awareness of its policies and procedures concerning persons with disabilities;
  2. the location and use of aircraft on-board wheelchairs; and
  3. the safe transfer of a person with a disability up or down the steps of the aircraft when enplaning or deplaning the aircraft.

SECOND CORRECTIVE MEASURE

[15] The second corrective measure in the Decision required Air Transat to issue an advisory bulletin to all personnel, whether employees or contracted employees of the carrier, highlighting the incident experienced by Mrs. Zahara and the importance of effective, ongoing communication with passengers who require assistance, and outlining steps to prevent a recurrence of this nature.

Facts

[16] Air Transat issued an advisory bulletin to all in-flight and ground personnel including Air Transat Regional Managers in November 2002. The bulletin stressed that a regular wheelchair is not to be used in transferring a person with a disability down or up aircraft stairs. In addition, Air Transat also highlighted this incident in an edition of its "TSC Impact", which is a flight safety newsletter distributed monthly to all in-flight personnel.

Position

[17] Air Transat believes that the release of its personnel bulletin on this incident along with its revised Passenger Handling Manual and training DVD should prevent a recurrence of this nature in the future.

Analysis and findings

[18] The Agency has reviewed the bulletin which included a copy of Mrs. Zahara's complaint to Air Transat. The Agency notes that the bulletin specifically mentioned that the on-board wheelchair could have been used for the safe transfer of Mrs. Zahara from her seat in row 14 to the exit door of the aircraft and that Air Transat personnel are to refer to the revised Passenger Handling Manual for any questions relating to the handling of passengers with disabilities or contact Ground Services immediately.

[19] In light of the above, the Agency finds that Air Transat has satisfied the second corrective measure and that no further action is required with respect to this corrective measure.

THIRD CORRECTIVE MEASURE

[20] The third corrective measure in the Decision required Air Transat to ensure that its ground handling contractor in Cancun provides sufficient boarding wheelchairs to offer an appropriate level of service at the airport and provide the Agency with a report describing the consultations it has undertaken with its ground handlers in order to secure sufficient boarding chairs and the extent of the corrective measure taken in this respect at its duty station in Cancun.

Facts

[21] On August 25, 2002, Air Transat had two straight-back boarding wheelchairs and four regular wheelchairs available for its use in Cancun. Following a review of its inventory and conducting repairs to its wheelchair supply, Air Transat currently has three straight-back boarding wheelchairs and ten regular wheelchairs available for use by its contracted ground handler in Cancun.

Position

[22] Air Transat believes that the above number of wheelchairs is sufficient to meet the demand experienced on a regular basis at its duty station in Cancun. While Air Transat acknowledges that on occasion, the availability of wheelchairs is limited, Air Transat contends that this is an exception and that there are sufficient wheelchairs available at this location. Air Transat states that it will conduct a full station inventory before peak season to ensure that supplies and equipment are available and in good working order at Cancun. Air Transat also states that each of the aircraft in its fleet now has at least one on-board wheelchair for use by cabin attendants.

Analysis and findings

[23] The Agency notes that Air Transat has increased the number of straight-back boarding and regular wheelchairs for use by its cabin attendants and ground handlers in Cancun. In addition, the Agency recognizes that each Air Transat aircraft in its fleet is now equipped with one on-board wheelchair for use by persons with disabilities during flight and also for transferring persons with disabilities to and from their aircraft seat. This increased availability of equipment should permit Air Transat to accommodate more passengers who need wheelchair assistance and help prevent or alleviate a recurrence of this nature at the duty station in Cancun.

[24] In light of the above, the Agency finds that Air Transat has satisfied this corrective measure and that no further action is required with respect to this corrective measure.

CONCLUSION

[25] In light of the foregoing, the Agency is satisfied that Air Transat has met the requirements of Agency Decision No. 78-AT-A-2003. Accordingly, the Agency contemplates no further action in this matter.

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