November 13 2023  |  Airline & Terminal News

Air Canada to make onboard experience improvements for passengers with disabilities

By Jane Hobson

Air Canada is working to make the passenger experience more accessible

Air Canada has announced an action plan to reduce barriers to travel for passengers with disabilities. In a press release, the airline said it is working to accelerate Air Canada's Accessibility Plan 2023-26. This is a three-year strategy released in June, intended to reduce or eliminate major sources of dissatisfaction and trip disruption for passengers with disabilities.

"Air Canada recognizes the challenges customers with disabilities encounter when they fly and accepts its responsibility to provide convenient and consistent service so that flying with us becomes easier,” said Michael Rousseau, President and Chief Executive Officer of Air Canada. “Sometimes we do not meet this commitment, for which we offer a sincere apology. As our customers with disabilities tell us, the most important thing is that we continuously improve in the future. We are listening to them and today we are committing to do better and demonstrating that commitment with concrete actions."

"In June, we released our three-year accessibility plan,” said Craig Landry, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer at Air Canada. “The measures we are announcing today accelerate key components in that plan. This includes improving boarding and seating, better customer communications, new processes to prevent delays or damage to mobility devices, more training and an investment in equipment such as lifts. We also intend to implement further measures as we strive to make Air Canada accessible for people managing disabilities.”

Air Canada is striving to make travel more accessible for passengers with disabilities in various ways, including working with its regional partners to ensure consistency. In its press release, the airline shared the following measures in alignment with its three-year Accessibility Plan, being implement to benefit passengers with disabilities as soon as possible.

Air Canada’s immediate measures
  • Boarding: Passengers at the gate who request lift assistance will be boarded before all other travellers and proactively seated at the front of the cabin they booked. Air Canada is investing significantly in new equipment at Canadian airports, such as lifts, to meet the expectations of its passengers.
  • Storage of mobility aids: Mobility aids will be stored in the aircraft cabin when possible. When mobility aids are stored in the cargo hold, the airline will use new systems being put in place to track them in transit, including a process to confirm mobility aids are properly loaded before departure. Passengers travelling within Canada will be able to track the journey of their mobility aid using the Air Canada app, the press release said. The airline is adopting new processes to load mobility aids in the aircraft holds to ensure passengers’ mobility aids arrive safely.
  • Training: Enhanced training will be supplied to improve employee interactions with passengers with disabilities, including understanding passenger experiences in air travel. Air Canada's approximately 10,000 airport employees will receive this training as part of a new annual, recurrent training program, the press release said. This will consist of both soft skill and equipment training, such as lifting techniques. Passengers with disabilities will be invited to make presentations at employee workshops and provide advice on further process developments.
  • Responsibility: Air Canada has created the new senior position of Director, Customer Accessibility. She will lead a team to manage the implementation of the company's accessibility plan as well as provide a resource and common reference point for responsive management of disability issues, the press release stated.

Passenger needs and expectations
Air Canada noted in its press release that advances in technology and the ability to meet passengers’ unique needs have resulted in an increased travel demand among people with disabilities.

Alongside this increase, there is growing expectation for airlines and companies to offer accessible services with the latest advancements. In June, Air Canada finalized a three-year plan to increase accessibility for passengers and employees called Air Canada's Accessibility Plan 2023-26. It supports the Government of Canada's Accessible Canada Act and its aim to realize a barrier-free Canada by 2040.

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