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Airline Denies Disabled Man Boarding “For No Reason”

A disabled man is considering taking Air Canada to court after the airline allegedly denied him boarding.

An Air Canada flyer is considering all of his options after he claims the airline would not allow him to board a flight due to his disability. Jerremy Lorch, 37, is now taking his case to the public with an attorney.

Lorch claims he was scheduled to fly aboard the Canadian flag carrier from his home airport of Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) to Toronto, where he would connect to his final destination of Vancouver. However, the wheelchair-bound flyer says he was not allowed to board his flight at ROC, despite arriving at the airport 2 1/2 hours ahead of departure. When the flight doors opened for boarding, Lorch claims the staff said they could not accommodate him or his wheelchair aboard the 18-seat Beechcraft 1900D.

“At first, my heart just broke for him,” Lorch’s wife, Ashley, told the Democrat & Chronicle. “Then it got turned to anger. I was so upset at the absolute injustice and discrimination he endured at the airport for no reason.”

Attorneys representing Lorch say they are weighing their options and considering a lawsuit against Air Canada. One of the attorneys, Kevin Clark of Wesley & Clark Bates, said that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to Lorch’s case and the Air Carrier Access Act does not provide a remedy the legal team considers “appropriate” for the situation.

In an email statement from Air Canada, the airline offered an apology and said it would review policies to prevent the situation from happening again. A portion of the statement read:

“We recognize and are sorry about the inconvenience caused and we have been in contact with the customer about this matter to apologize and address the situation. We are refunding his ticket and associated expenses.”

[Photo: Democrat & Chronicle]

Comments are Closed.
simpleflyer October 22, 2015

Well ,I learned from this that they fly Rochester to Toronto (takes fewer than 3 hours to drive.) I went through a mock booking on-line and there are links to the special needs section. That section says that Air Canada will "Assist in transferring you between your wheelchair or other mobility aid and the aircraft seat" However, in the special needs section there is also a link to the fleet section, which specifies that for the BEH 1900d on AC Express and Air Georgian, there is no on board wheelchair available, or even any flight attendant service available, as an earlier poster has indicated. Because all prospective pax use the same booking engine, I don't think there is an easy way for AC to indicate, as part of general on-line booking, that any given segment of a flight itinerary will pose a possible conflict for a wheelchair passenger. So at best, the conflict could have been caught a) by an alert agent had he done a phone or travel agent booking or b) at check-in. However, even at check-in 2.5 hours or so ahead of departure, even had an actual body (as opposed to automated check-in) caught the conflict in the first leg, by that time it would have been too late for him to make it to YYZ by ground transport to make the next leg. The only possibility would have been if he had phoned or emailed in advance and been given incorrect information. But I don't think (?) that that's a lawsuit level of error, since at the end of the day the aircraft still physically couldn't accommodate him.

x2y October 22, 2015

There was a reason, it was that the aircraft was too small to fit his equipment. If anything, maybe there's a question of whether it was a valid reason. Did he contact Air Canada to explain and coordinate his needs? It seems he was required to do so. They have a procedure in place for exactly this situation, but they require advance notice to make the arrangements. Not unreasonable, IMO. You have to notify Air Canada 48 hours in advance if you are traveling between the U.S. and Canada and: "You are travelling with an electric wheelchair on a Dash 8, CRJ or Beech aircraft (fewer than 60 seats). Although advance notice is required only for the smaller aircraft listed above, we recommend that you contact Air Canada Reservations in advance for all aircraft types to ensure proper handling of your wheelchair. View our fleet page for more information on our aircraft." (From this link: http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/before/special-needs-transborder.html#faq:0-*)

AsiaTraveler October 22, 2015

If all the facts are as laid out here, it seems like his main complaint should be that no one caught the fact that he wouldn't fit sooner. The article says that they didn't tell him that until the airplane doors opened for boarding. On the other hand, I would think that if he's sitting there waiting to board and sees the tiny airplane, he also has some responsbility to inquire...

weero October 22, 2015

Clickbait: not being able to fit the wheelchair onto an 18 seater is not "for no reason". What were they supposed to do? Bolt it do a wing? Love those generic airline apologies whenever a member of a protected class whines "we review our policies". I am sure that will make more space on that aircraft. So how did the story end? Was he booked onto a service with a larger plane? Or did kick him in the gutter and leave him there as the tone of the article insinuates? I am quite confident that he just got rerouted and the squeakery was once more about nothing but hot air.

BSpeaker October 21, 2015

How did this man NOT know that it was an 18-seat Beechcraft when he booked his flight? That would have been the first phone call I would have made. Like this: "Hi, I'm in a wheelchair and I have a flight I need to take from airport X to airport Y. What do we need to do to make sure I get on the flight?" Because - A) that's a *very* small airplane; B) They would have to remove seats to accommodate his wheelchair if he can't use crutches to get into a seat; C) Some small aircraft can't accommodate a boarding ramp and boarding has to be either by the stairs or by a crane type lift -- so the airport would need advance information about that; D) It sounds like this is his home airport and he should have known they weren't flying a 747 out of there. Sorry - I'm pretty well versed on ADA rules and I agree with the airline's attorney - it doesn't apply. If he truly wanted to fly, he would have taken the appropriate steps. I've been in a wheelchair situation several times and I always checked ahead. I knew that I had some personal responsibility for making my trip work, and so did he. I just looked on Air Canada and made an initial inquiry about booking that route. It clearly shows BEH as the aircraft that will be used for that first leg. Click on that link and you will find this http://www.aircanada.com/shared/en/common/fleet/pop_beh-1900d.html -- if the link doesn't come through, it says clearly that it does not have wheelchair access on board, nor does it have wheelchair accessible bathrooms for this 8-hour flight. It's an 18-seater. He needed to keep looking when he booked this. There are other options, other airlines. Beh1900d Special Features for Accessibility: Seats with Moveable Aisle Armrest On most aircraft On-board Wheelchair No Wheelchair Accessible Lavatory No