Air Canada bungled case of P.E.I. woman

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Passenger with mobility issues left stranded on Montreal tarmac

Air Canada needs to take to crash course in customer service and public relations. Yes, the pun is painfully obvious. Just as obvious is the absolute necessity of the airline being able to look after passengers with mobility issues.

The recent case of a P.E.I. female passenger with muscular dystrophy, who was not allowed to board a plane late at night in Montreal for her trip home to Charlottetown, has left many people bewildered and angry.

The woman has mobility issues and needed a special chair at the P.E.I. airport to help her disembark. There was a problem — the chair was broken and had been out of service for two weeks. So the woman was left stranded in Montreal and Air Canada had to call her daughter in Toronto to come pick her up.

Several things immediately come to mind. Why wasn’t the chair fixed, and if there was a delay, why wasn’t there a backup chair available, if not from Air Canada, then borrow one from another airline? WestJet, being a good neighbour, was happy to offer one should the need arise again but it came too late to help the poor woman left on the tarmac in Montreal.

And why wasn’t the woman looked after in Montreal, following the decision not to let her board the plane? Air Canada should have flown her  to Toronto where her daughter could pick her up. Or, at last offer her to a hotel for the night at corporate expense until the daughter arrived.

Air Canada Jazz is making arrangements to have a new chair brought to Prince Edward Island. The airline, if it cared about due diligence, should’ve had a backup chair available or have made prior arrangements with another carrier to borrow its chair.

The P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities is certainly justified in complaining about the treatment given the woman. You just can’t strand passengers with special needs in an airport far from home in the middle of the night. The whole affair is a disgrace and a black mark for Air Canada.

Province teetered on edge

The incident last Thursday evening involving P.E.I.’s electricity supply gives us pause to think. We came extremely close to a total blackout in the middle of dangerously cold weather with a blizzard on the horizon. It could have been a catastrophe. Islanders almost found themselves in the situation that Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and parts of Nova Scotia experienced over the past week or so with massive power outages, rolling blackouts and citizens thrust in acute danger because of bitterly cold weather.

Temperatures were close to -25 C and the supper hour was at hand Thursday when Maritime Electric realized it was in trouble. The two submarine cables were at capacity, winds were light so wind turbines were not producing much power, the backup generator on the Charlottetown waterfront was beset with cold weather issues and huge demands for electric heat and cooking brought the system to the brink of collapse. The utility had to shed some big business users, but before the shedding began, more than 9,000 customers lost power as the system began to shut itself off. Some of those customers were in the dark for more than two hours.

The issue could have been avoided if the province had a third submarine power cable. The issue continues to dominate the province’s wish list in Ottawa for a cost-sharing agreement estimated to cost $80 million to $90 million.

With temperatures that low, and with many residents depending on electricity for heat, last Thursday night could have become a very scary situation for many Islanders.

Organizations: Air Canada, P.E.I. Council of People, Maritime Electric

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Montreal, Charlottetown Toronto Newfoundland and Labrador New Brunswick Nova Scotia Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Chad
    January 09, 2014 - 11:55

    Why does everyone always treat air canada as a social service? It's a private business right?