Kevin Smith isn’t the only type of person made to leave an aircraft they have already boarded. Last Friday I took a flight to Moncton New Brunswick and disabled people were kicked off the flight.
First the Air Canada Jazz flight was late, we were to leave at 4:20 and it was delayed over an hour. I don’t mind too much about that as the winter weather wasn’t good and I’d rather be delayed than dead.
Finally we all got on the flight, including four disabled persons whose motorized wheelchairs had to go into the hold. Everyone got settled on the flight including the four disabled and their attendants.
Another hour passed, then a flight attendant came on the speaker and apologized for the delay, saying to the full plane that the baggage handlers couldn’t get the wheelchairs into the baggage compartment. Time passed.
The attendant then came on and said the disabled people had to get off the plane as their wheelchairs didn’t fit in baggage. So we waited another hour while the disabled people and their attendants were taken off the plane and also their luggage.
I overheard one of the attendants for the disabled on her phone saying, “We have to find another flight.”
The other people on my plane were very upset but not so much from the delay but the fact that the disabled were forced off the plane! The guy sitting beside me who apparently used to work in baggage handling was livid and the flight attendant spent time trying to calm him down.
The staff on the plane gave us free headsets and apologized for the three hour delay, totally missing the point.
Later in the week I attended a conference and coincidentally at my hotel I found a ballroom full of disabled people in wheelchairs cheering up a storm. A grandmother came out with a fussy baby and I asked her who they all were, as I was on the plane that kicked off the disabled.
They were athletes from across Canada competing in the National Cerebral Palsy Athletics. Some play wheelchair basketball and some do a type of lawn bowling. Those who are severely disabled use a special mount to throw the ball in the lawn bowling. They were giving out gold, silver and bronze medals.
The grandmother’s daughter is a referee. Apparently, even though they have a travel agent who specializes in disabled travel, flights on any airlines are difficult. Sometimes they miss connections due to problems like the baggage. One group coming to the games didn’t make it until Monday because they had to rent a van in Montreal and drive to Moncton due to lack of a flight. They then got stuck in Fredericton when a blizzard came in on the Saturday. Moncton was a venue because the University has great facilities for the athletes.
It is very hard for the disabled to travel at the best of times. Rail and Intercity buses are mostly inaccessible (See my post on the great accessible buses GO bus has come up with)
How are the paralympians getting to Vancouver from around the world? Beats me.
This story is appalling. The airline should have known there was an issue with the power wheelchairs before boarding time. In recent years I have travelled in several tiny, cramped airplanes which do not even have room for carry on luggage in the cabin. My last flight from Cleveland to Toronto was a good example. Thank goodness it was less than an hour. Airline are using older, smaller planes for economic reasons and if you were in a plane like this, I am not surprised they could not handle the wheelchairs.