Air Canada accused of forcing man with cerebral palsy to drag himself off plane

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Air Canada accused of forcing man with cerebral palsy to drag himself off plane

Canadian officials have launched a probe after a man in a wheelchair said he was forced to drag himself out of an Air Canada plane because he was not offered assistance.

Rodney and Deanna Hodgins, a Canadian couple, said the incident happened on a flight from Vancouver to Las Vegas in August.

Ms Hodgins has accused the airline of failing her husband “in every sense”.

Ms Hodgins detailed the incident in an interview with the BBC.

She said her husband, who has spastic cerebral palsy and who uses a motorised wheelchair, was not offered any help by Air Canada crew to get off the plane.

Usually, airlines provide an aisle chair to help passengers with limited mobility exit the plane safely, after all the other passengers have left.

But Ms Hodgins said that no such assistance was offered, and that a crew member had told the couple that Mr Hodgins needed to get to the front of the plane by himself.

“They made it very clear that they wanted us to get off the plane because they had to turn it around,” Ms Hodgins said.

“We thought it was a joke at first, but after we were flabbergasted,” she said.

She said that eight cleaning crew members, two flight attendants, and the captain and co-captain watched as she tried to help her husband exit the plane.

“I was so mad at watching him fight to drag his uncooperative body so slowly and painfully,” she said, adding that he suffered muscle spasms as he tried to make his way toward the cockpit.

“It took us struggling, in front of a dozen people, as some looked away and others looked on with shame, to get him off that plane,” Ms Hodgins said.

She added that her husband suffered for days from pain while they were in Las Vegas. The couple had travelled there to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.

The incident has been covered widely in Canadian media, and Ms Hodgins said the airline has since apologised to the couple.

“An apology is great and we do appreciate that,” she said, but added that “Rodney really wants change, so it’s not over for him, and it’s certainly not over for us.”

“We just want to make sure that this really never happens again.”

In a statement to the CBC, Air Canada said it uses a third-party wheelchair assistance specialist in Las Vegas.

“Following our investigation into how this serious service lapse occurred, we will be evaluating other Mobility Assistance service partners in Las Vegas,” the airline said.

The Canadian Transportation Agency confirmed to the BBC that it is investigating the incident.

It added that airlines are required to assist passengers with limited mobility, including when they are boarding or getting off an aircraft.

Ms Hodgins said her husband’s rights “were trampled on” in the aftermath of the incident.

“Rodney is the most beautiful human on the planet, and did not deserve this at all.”

But she added she was grateful for the outpouring of support from fellow Canadians since their story became public.

Accessibility advocates have long called for better rules to ease travel for people who require wheelchairs or other assistance, including allowing them to sit on their own chair during the flight.

Others have called out airlines for taking poor care of their wheelchairs, with some being damaged during travel.

According to data by the US Department of Transportation, airlines mishandled 871 wheelchairs and scooters, amounting to 1.6 for every 100, in the month of January, which is the most recent month data is available.