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Air Canada fined $97.5K after disabled man had to drag himself to exit

A man with cerebral palsy said he had to drag himself off an Air Canada plane, prompting a hefty fine for the airline.
An Air Canada flight takes off.
Posted at 5:14 PM, Dec 27, 2023

Air Canada is facing a hefty fine for failing to help a wheelchair user disembark its aircraft, reportedly forcing a man who can't move his legs to drag himself off the plane.

The Canadian Transportation Agency announced Thursday that it has issued a $97,500 penalty to the airline for violating the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations in multiple ways, specifically related to its obligation to provide certain services to travelers with disabilities.

The regulator said the fine is related to an incident that occurred on Aug. 30, 2023, when British Columbia resident Rodney Hodgins said there would be no help to get him to the plane's exit.

Hodgins, who has spastic cerebral palsy and can't use his legs, told CNN that only one staff member came to assist him upon landing from Vancouver to Las Vegas—a celebration trip he planned for his first wedding anniversary with his wife—despite him telling the crew he needed multiple people to help maneuver him into the narrow aisle chair.

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Once staff said they needed to turn the plane around, Hodgins said he felt obligated to get off the plane, and with no wheelchair, dragging himself to the exit was the only option.

He says he was forced to support himself with his arms on either side of the aisle while his wife was on the floor moving his legs for 12 rows until he could reach his power chair, which had been waiting at the aircraft door the whole time, according to CNN. 

The ordeal caused him physical and emotional damage that ruined the rest of the trip, he told the publication.

In November, Air Canada acknowledged a violation of the company's disability regulations, saying that the services of a third-party wheelchair assistance specialist in Las Vegas failed to provide the needed service. It's since said it would find a new partner and hire someone to oversee mobility policies.

The airline sent Hodgins and his wife $2,000 in flight credits then, but the pair wanted them to change their policies, not just compensate them, they told CNN.

With the Canadian Transportation Agency's penalty, Air Canada has 30 days to request a review before the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.