Air Canada’s CEO Michael Rousseau has defended the company’s accessibility services during an appearance at a Canadian parliamentary committee meeting after criticism of the airline over multiple incidents of alleged mistreatment of disabled passengers last year.
The airline’s treatment of some passengers with disabilities was labelled “shocking” and “unacceptable” by the committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA), which cited recent stories such as one of a disabled man who dragged himself off a plane after the airline reportedly failed to provide a wheelchair.
While Rousseau said that he takes responsibility for the “exceptions” in the airline’s care of passengers with accessibility needs, he argued that the vast majority of cases involved a good experience but also acknowledged that it needed to improve, referencing the recent introduction of an accelerated accessibility plan.
Though the CEO said that ensuring a positive experience for customers with disabilities was a priority for Air Canada, Conservative Vice Chair of the committee Tracy Gray highlighted that the company’s 2021 and 2022 annual reports mentioned disability “only a couple of times” and exclusively around hiring.
“I think that people hearing that would find it difficult to believe that this is a priority for Air Canada. I’m not sure how Air Canada is taking this seriously with improving their service levels when it’s not even mentioned in your annual reports,” said Gray.
The airline’s new accessibility plan saw it adopt the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower programme, enhance training for employees, and install a new policy of storing mobility aids in the aircraft cabin when possible.
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Criticism from the committee continues a period of disappointing press for the airline, which was named one of the weakest airlines in North America for on-time performance with only 63.7% of arrivals arriving more than 15 minutes after scheduled.