WestJet CEO apologizes for accessibility failures, defends airline’s record

By The Canadian Press

WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech is apologizing for incidents where the airline failed to accommodate people living with disabilities.

The chief executive says that more than 99 per cent of the 700 daily customers who require support had a good experience, but that each case of mistreatment is “a case too many.”

Several incidents have surfaced at Canadian airlines over the past year, including when a man with spastic cerebral palsy was forced to drag himself off of an airplane and when former Paralympian Sarah Morris-Probert hauled herself up the aircraft stairs rather than being able to board using her wheelchair.

Disability and passenger rights advocates David Lepofsky and Gabor Lukacs say stronger regulations and enforcement are needed to reduce accessibility barriers.

WestJet highlighted steps it is taking to improve on that front, including a process to confirm that mobility aids were loaded into the cargo hold and procedures to properly protect those devices across its whole network.

The Accessible Canada Act came into force in 2019 with the goal of removing accessibility hurdles, but some advocates say big legislative gaps remain in areas ranging from consultation to assistance protocols.

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