Air Canada is bringing in a series of measures designed to make travel simpler, more comfortable and consistently reliable for customers with disabilities, and to reduce barriers to access. The actions are part of Air Canada’s Accessibility Plan 2023-26, a three-year strategy released in June, and are intended to reduce or eliminate major sources of dissatisfaction and trip disruption for customers with disabilities. The airline is also working with its regional partners to ensure consistency across its network.
There are four main measures being brought in immediately. The first is an improvement in boarding procedures. Air Canada is investing significantly in appropriate new equipment at Canadian airports, such as lifts. Customers at the gate who request lift assistance will be boarded first before all other customers and seated at the front of the cabin they booked.
Secondly, mobility aids will be stored in the aircraft cabin when possible, to reduce the risk of damage. When mobility aids have to be stored in the cargo hold, new systems are being put in place to track them in transit, including a process to confirm that any mobility aids are properly loaded before departure. Customers travelling within Canada will be able to track the journey of their mobility aid using the Air Canada app. The airline is also adopting new processes to load mobility aids in the aircraft holds to ensure that customers’ mobility aids arrive safely.
A key measure is enhanced training, which will be supplied to improve all aspects of employee interactions with customers with disabilities, including understanding their experiences and needs in air travel. Air Canada’s approximately 10,000 airport employees will receive this training as part of a new annual, recurrent training programme. This programme will consist of both soft skills and equipment training, such as lifting techniques. Customers with disabilities will be invited to make presentations at employee workshops and provide advice on further process developments.
Lastly, Air Canada has created the new senior position of Director, Customer Accessibility. She will lead a team to manage implementation of the company’s accessibility plan and will also provide a resource and common reference point for responsive management of disability issues.
“Air Canada recognises 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. 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 we are committing to do better and demonstrating that commitment with concrete actions,” said Michael Rousseau, president and CEO of Air Canada.
Air Canada also fully supports the Government of Canada’s Accessible Canada Act and its aim to achieve a barrier-free Canada by 2040.