The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected an application by Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, and Westjet for permission to appeal the new policy imposed by the Canadian Transportation Agency in January of this year. The CTA had issued an order to the airlines to adopt a policy of ‘one person, one fare’. In the past, passengers with disabilities and those that are deemed disabled because of obesity, could sometimes be charged two fares if they required extra space to accommodate their wheelchair, stretcher, or if they required two seats because of their size or if someone required an attendant. The airlines argued that the CTA order would cause “undue hardship” (implementing this directive would be too costly…the CTA did not buy it and suggested that costs would be recouped by charging an additional 79 cents per ticket). The airlines will no longer be allowed to charge a second fare to accommodate anyone who requires two seats because of a disability or obesity. This only applies to flights within Canada.
Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians president, Robin East, won a victory complimentary to the “one seat, one fare” decision in a CTA ruling against Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz in June of 2008. I know this man. He stands over 6 feet 2 inches tall. He travels a great deal…with his guide dog. He explained to me that sometimes, the airlines (Specifically Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz) would not provide him with adequate space for his guide dog when he traveled. (Airlines would provide an extra seat (or bulkhead seating on Westjet) as a courtesy, only when the flight was not sold out. (I have flown at least once on all three airlines with Opal. Twice I got the extra seat, once I did not. The time I did not? Not too comfy for us…and I’m 5’2″) Often, Robin would end up scrunched into a center section seat with his dog wedged between his legs, sometimes for hours. This is a horrendous hardship on the dog, the handler and the adjacent passengers don’t care for it much either). As a result of the ruling, these airlines must now provide sufficient floor space for registered service dogs who fly with their handlers (within Canada) on all aircraft that have over 30 seats.