Woman left stranded in Montreal due to broken equipment at Charlottetown airport

Teresa Wright
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Special chair helps those with mobility issues

CHARLOTTETOWN - The P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities is crying foul over the treatment of an Air Canada passenger with mobility issues after she was left stranded at the Montreal airport.

An Air Canada jet lands the airport in Halifax on Friday, June 10, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The P.E.I. woman, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, was not allowed to board her flight home to P.E.I. because a special chair Air Canada uses to disembark passengers with major mobility issues at the Charlottetown airport was out of order.

Marcia Carroll, executive director of the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities, says the woman, who did not want to be identified, had to call her daughter in Toronto to come and pick her up in Montreal.

“I feel it’s negligible at the very least and criminal at the worst,” Carroll said.

“She was left, at 11:30 at night, in the Montreal airport. It’s horrible. … If you didn’t have family or that kind of support, what would you do?”

An official with Air Canada did confirm Monday the chair, known as a Washington chair, at the Charlottetown airport has been out of order for the last couple of weeks.

The Washington chair is used to transport passengers who require the use of a wheelchair to transition from the aircraft door to their seat on the plane.

Manon Stuart, manager of corporate communications and linguistic services with Air Canada Jazz, said arrangements are now being made to have a new Washington chair brought to Prince Edward Island.

“In the meantime, we have arranged to borrow a Washington chair from another operator at the Charlottetown Airport should the need to use this chair arise,” Stuart said in an email to The Guardian.

But Paul Cudmore, executive director of Spinal Cord Injury P.E.I., said that’s not good enough.

“It’s something they should have a backup for at least. If it breaks, you can’t just say, ‘Oh well it’s broken, you can’t come home.’”

Cudmore was shocked to learn of the woman left stranded in Montreal.

“I haven’t talked directly to this person, but that would be awful,” he said.

Carroll says she has spoken to several Islanders with mobility issues who have told her they do not fly Air Canada due to the fact they must use a Washington chair.

They prefer other carriers who have aisles large enough to wheel themselves to their seat on a plane.

“Being able to use the transportation systems in this country we believe is a human right and that you should be able to use any form of public transit and any form of private if you’re a paying customer,” Carroll said.

“If they’re advertising that they are accessible, then they should be accessible, and that’s not what’s been happening.”

Organizations: Air Canada, P.E.I. Council of People, Charlottetown Airport

Geographic location: Montreal, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Washington Toronto

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