Another Air Canada passenger upset over boarding practices

This is the Air Canada solution.

SYDNEY, N.S. — A Sydney woman upset of how she was carried onto an Air Canada jet says the airline wasted no time in addressing her concerns.

The stairs leading up to the Air Canada jet.
The stairs leading up to the Air Canada jet.

“They contacted me and apologized and told me they will be making changes to allow for better boarding for people with disabilities,” said Marcie Shwery-Stanley of her recent experience boarding a Sydney to Toronto.

Shwery-Stanley, 71, an advocate for people with disabilities for theb past 37 years, said Air Canada officials have informed her that next week the airline starts its winter schedule in Sydney and will move from their larger jet to a smaller one.

“They told me they will be using WestJet’s ramp for the smaller aircraft.”

But Shwery-Stanley said she was also assured Air Canada would acquire a ramp this winter to accommodate their larger jet.

“It’s going to be implemented on the bigger jet by the time it goes back into operation for the summer schedule,” she said.

“They are taking action immediately, which is good to hear.”

In a story in the Cape Breton Post on Oct. 19, Shwery-Stanley described boarding an Air Canada Sydney to Toronto flight on Oct. 4, where she was seated in a Washington chair and carried up the steep steps of the jet by three men, which she said was scary, dangerous and demeaning.

On Saturday, Shwery-Stanley returned home and was met at the Toronto airport by Air Canada officials offering to change her flight to stop in Halifax, so that she could take the Dash 8 to Sydney and disembark by ramp at the Sydney airport.

“I told them I couldn’t, as I had already booked Handi-Trans and the operator is not on duty on Saturdays to make changes.”

Shwery-Stanley said Saturday there were high winds; being carried down the steps of the aircraft was even more frightening than her previous experience.

“This time instead of three men they had four,” she said. “They did the best they could but it was really windy and really dangerous.”

Related: Sydney woman with disabilities said she was carried on Air Canada jet

In the meantime, after reading about Shwery-Stanley’s experience in the Cape Breton Post, Brenda Wootten of Toronto contacted the newspaper.

Wootten said her parents, from Sydney, are elderly and Sept. 22 she booked an Air Canada flight for them from Sydney to Toronto.

“I moved them to Toronto so I could look after them.”

Arriving for their flight Wootten was shocked to learn her mother would be boarded by being carried up the stairs in a Washington chair.

Wootten said her mother is 81, can’t walk far, has diabetes and a heart condition.

“We had no choice at this point.”

The staff couldn’t get one side of the chair down, so there was nothing even securing her mother on the right side, she said.

“They told her to make sure she didn’t lean to the right.”

Wootten said three men were carrying her. Halfway up the stairs the chair was partially dropped and tipped over to the right.

“The person on top grabbed her hoodie and pulled it in front of her neck so she wouldn’t fall over the railing. They should have been notified there wasn’t a proper ramp and then (we) would have booked WestJet,” she said.

Wootten said her mother has only flown once in 16 year and is not well.

“I normally do fly WestJet but I didn’t want her to have to transfer in Halifax and that was the only direct flight I could get.”

Wootten said she filed a complaint right away but more than a month later had still not received a response.

“I phoned them and the mailbox was full and then it directed me back online,” she said.

“The purpose of filing it wasn’t going after them but to ask them to please stop this practice. Someone is going to be seriously hurt. It’s not safe for the staff or passenger.”

The Cape Breton Post contacted Air Canada regarding Wootten’s complaint Tuesday and later in the day she was contacted by the airline, which apologized and provided a token of compensation.

Wootten said she’s happy to hear the update Air Canada gave Shwery-Stanley regarding the ramps but wants to ensure that someone with disabilities booking a ticket is always aware of how they will be accommodated.

“They need to make it part of their policy and even health and safety training.”

Wootten the airline’s health and safety committee needs to investigate and make more changes if necessary.

“I hope they investigate this because someone could eventually lose their life.”

Air Canada was contacted but declined to respond to specific questions or to confirm solutions provided to Shwery-Stanley.

However, Isabelle Arthur, Air Canada’s director of media relations, did stress the airline’s dedication to its passengers.

“We appreciate that our customers take the time to contact us and share their comments and concerns and we will respond to them individually in the near future,” she said in an email response.

“We are very serious about improving the service we offer to passengers with disability while ensuring the well-being and safety of our employees.

“We certainly understand our customer’s concerns and we are reviewing options to improve as quickly as possible our service for customers with special accessibility requirements when flying from Sydney, Nova Scotia.”