Air Canada apologizes for not letting blind woman fly with guide dog


Air Canada is apologizing after not permitting a passenger who’s blind to board a flight from Toronto to Minneapolis with her guide dog.

Dena Wainwright, a 49 year-old Canadian who lives in Minnesota, says she is going to by no means fly with the airline once more after being compelled to go away Toronto by prepare, cross the border by automotive, and take a home flight dwelling, costing her greater than $2,000.

“Not to say all the stress,” Wainwright advised CBC Toronto.

“Being handled by Air Canada staff like I used to be a felony, like I used to be being held hostage, having them communicate to my daughter as an alternative of me. Like I used to be too mentally impaired to have a coherent dialog with the agent.”

Wainwright’s case is not the primary time this yr that Air Canada has run into controversy over the way in which it treats passengers with disabilities. In September, CBC News advised the story of Maayan Ziv, an accessibility activist who travelled on Air Canada from Toronto to Tel Aviv, solely to seek out that her wheelchair was broken after her flight landed. 

Wainwright works in expertise and accessibility as a vp with Fidelity Investments. She’s additionally utterly blind after being born with a genetic eye illness. 

Last week, Wainwright travelled to Toronto from Minneapolis to rejoice her birthday with her daughter. She was additionally travelling with her service dog Lilo, a 5 year-old black Lab. 

Wainwright says she was in a position to board and journey on the Air Canada flight from Minneapolis to Toronto with none points. At check-in, Wainwright was requested if the animal was registered with the airline, which she was not.

“They mentioned, ‘Oh, that is OK.’ They handed us our boarding passes and mentioned, ‘Have an awesome flight,'” Wainwright mentioned.

‘It was humiliating. It was demeaning’

But when the group tried to board their return flight in Toronto, Wainwright says the service dog was out of the blue a serious downside.

She says Air Canada employees advised her that she may not fly with Lilo as a result of she had not crammed out the paperwork required to carry a service animal within the cabin of a aircraft.

She says she was given the choice of placing the dog in cargo, which Wainwright says would not have labored since she depends on the animal for assist.

According to Wainwright, the airline additionally mentioned the dog may enter the cabin if she “proved to them” that she had a incapacity by presenting a National Institute for the Blind identification card. Wainwright says she would not have a card, since she lives within the United States, the place there isn’t a equal. 

“It was humiliating. It was demeaning.”

Wainwright says she was additionally offended by airline employees who, in the course of the dispute on the airport, most well-liked to talk with her daughter, who’s not blind.

In the top, Wainwright travelled to Windsor, Ont. by prepare, crossed the border by taxi and went to Detroit airport, the place she was in a position to fly again to again to Minneapolis with Lilo comfortably at her toes. 

“I’ll by no means fly Air Canada once more,” she mentioned.

Dogs should be registered, Air Canada says

According to Air Canada, service canines should be registered with the airline at the least 48 hours previous to a visit. It’s not clear why Wainwright wasn’t knowledgeable of this forward of her flight or why she was in a position to carry her dog on the primary leg of the journey with none issues.

Responding to questions from CBC Toronto an Air Canada spokesperson known as the state of affairs “regrettable” and mentioned the airline has spoken with and apologized to Wainwright.

Air Canada says service canines should be registered with the airline 48 hours earlier than boarding one among its flights. However, the corporate says in Wainwright’s case, ‘we did not meet our typical customer support requirements.’ (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

“Air Canada carries tens of hundreds of consumers with disabilities efficiently annually, however on this occasion we did not meet our typical customer support requirements,” the assertion mentioned.

“We do carry service animals however there’s a course of in place to make sure they’re licensed upfront and it was not adopted on this occasion on the outset of this buyer’s journey. We are reviewing internally why this buyer was allowed to journey initially with out the correct documentation,”  the airline added.

Airline guidelines could fluctuate

Larissa Proctor is a supervisor of guide dog advocacy with the Canadian Institute for the Blind. They say guide canines are generally introduced on board flights and will not go in cargo as they’re educated to curve up at a passenger’s toes.

While it is not uncommon apply for guide canines to fly within the cabin, Proctor recommends that travellers discover out the principles in place earlier than travelling as they might fluctuate relying on the airline. 

“So which may imply calling an airline upfront to seek out out what kind of varieties should be accomplished. Typically they will need some details about your dog, just like the breed and the burden of the dog,” Proctor mentioned in an interview.

They provides that, on the opposite facet, airline employees ought to deal with people who find themselves blind like every other passenger and when unsure about somebody’s incapacity, they should not hesitate to ask questions.

“Most occasions, notably in the event you’re speaking to someone who’s blind or partially sighted, we wish to be spoken to immediately because the buyer,” Proctor mentioned. 

“So deal with us such as you would deal with every other buyer.”


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