UA passenger on an Air Canada flight was forced to drag himself off the plane, despite suffering from spastic cerebral palsy, after airline staff did not have a wheelchair available and told the couple they would have to leave without help.
The incident occurred in August when Rodney Hodgins, 49, traveled to Las Vegas with his wife, Deanna, to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
According to the woman in a Facebook post, the on-board team told the couple that there was no time to place a wheelchair on board the aircraft before the break between flights. The employee then said that Rodney would have to leave the plane without support.
When the couple asked if it was a joke, the employee repeated the request. “I said ‘of course I can’t, I need a wheelchair, I can’t walk’,” the passenger told the Canadian Press, quoted by The Guardian.
Deanna then said Rodney was forced to use his upper body to move 12 rows of seats while the woman held onto his legs.
Deanna Hodgins explained that the episode was humiliating and painful for both of them, at such a special time.
“It was very arduous, in front of dozens of people who looked into the distance and others who looked with shame, for them to take him off the plane. He hurt his legs and I hurt my back – emotionally it was much more painful. The human rights of my husband were crushed and Air Canada doesn’t respond or approach us as they promised”, criticized Deanna, adding that her husband is “the most beautiful human being on the planet and he didn’t deserve this at all”.
Air Canada later acknowledged the incident, apologized to the couple and promised to investigate and improve its services.
“We use third-party wheelchair assistance services in Las Vegas to provide safe transportation to and from the aircraft. Following our investigation into how this serious oversight occurred, we will evaluate other mobility assistance services in Las Vegas,” he promised the company.
This is not the first time that an incident involving people with reduced mobility has tarnished the Canadian airline’s public relations. Just this month, the head of the accessibility division herself lost her wheelchair on an Air Canada flight, in an ironic case that led the employee to describe the experience as “frustrating and inhumane”.
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