Canadian Transportation Agency decides in favour of one-person-one-fare policy



    OTTAWA, Jan. 10 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Transportation Agency has
ordered Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet to adopt a one-person-one-fare
policy for persons with severe disabilities who travel within Canada by air.
The airlines have one year to implement the policy.

    The tribunal's Decision means that for domestic services, Air Canada, Air
Canada Jazz and WestJet may not charge more than one fare for persons with
disabilities who

    
    - are accompanied by an attendant for their personal care or safety in
      flight, as required by the carriers' domestic tariffs, or
    - require additional seating for themselves, including those determined
      to be functionally disabled by obesity for purposes of air travel.

    The Decision does NOT apply to:

    - persons with disabilities or others who prefer to travel with a
      companion for personal reasons;
    - persons with disabilities who require a personal care attendant at
      destination, but not in-flight; and
    - persons who are obese but not disabled as a result of their obesity.

    The Decision is based on longstanding principles of equal access to
transportation services for persons with disabilities, regardless of the
nature of the disability, and the Agency's legislative mandate to remove
"undue obstacles" to their mobility. The Decision respects related decisions
of the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Court of Appeal.

    The airlines are expected to develop a screening process to assess
eligibility under the one-person-one-fare policy. For persons who travel with
an attendant as required by the carriers' domestic tariffs, the Decision notes
that carriers already perform assessments and have screening mechanisms to
determine fitness and conditions for travel. Their screening mechanisms could
be adapted to include functional assessments, and related screening expertise
is available to them. For persons disabled by obesity, the Agency cites the
practical experience of Southwest Airlines, which screens for entitlement to
an additional seat by determining whether a person can lower the seat's
armrests.

    The airlines failed to demonstrate to the Agency that implementation of a
one-person-one-fare policy will impose undue hardship on them. The Agency
estimates that the cost of implementing the one-person-one-fare policy
represents 0.09 per cent of Air Canada's annual passenger revenues of
$8.2 billion and 0.16 per cent of WestJet's equivalent revenues of
$1.4 billion.

    The three applicants in the case were the Council of Canadians with
Disabilities, Joanne Neubauer of Victoria, and the Estate of the late Eric
Norman, who was a resident of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador.

    In a separate statement released today, the Agency offered to facilitate a
collaborative process for implementation of the one-person-one-fare Decision.
"It would be desirable to have a common screening approach to determine
eligibility to benefit under the one-person-one-fare policy," said Geoffrey
Hare, Chairman and CEO of the Agency. "A co-operative approach would be
potentially beneficial to Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, WestJet and the Gander
International Airport Authority as well as other Canadian air carriers and
airport authorities that may consider voluntary implementation of the
one-person-one-fare policy."

    The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent tribunal which
operates like a court to render decisions on a case-by-case basis. The
Agency's jurisdiction with respect to persons with disabilities, stated in
Part V of the Canada Transportation Act, is to ensure that persons with
disabilities have proper access to effective transportation service. The
Agency makes decisions and orders to eliminate undue obstacles to the mobility
of persons with disabilities in the federal transportation network.

    The Agency's Decision No. 6-AT-A-2008 on the one-person-one-fare
application may be viewed at www.cta.gc.ca. The Executive Summary, two
backgrounders and a related news release may be found in the Media Room at
www.cta.gc.ca.

    For further information, please contact:

    News Media Enquiries: Jadrino Huot at 819-953-9957
    General Public Enquiries: cta.comment@cta-otc.gc.ca; 1-888-222-2592

    The Canadian Transportation Agency is online at www.cta.gc.ca

    To keep up-to-date with our latest news releases and other information,
use our subscription service available on our home page under "subscription".


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                                 BACKGROUNDER

                       ONE-PERSON-ONE-FARE APPLICATION

    January 10, 2008

    The case was brought as a complaint to the Agency in 2002 by three
    applicants:

           -  Joanne Neubauer of Victoria, who has severe rheumatoid
              arthritis, needs a wheelchair for mobility, uses personal care
              attendants in her daily life and requires additional seating
              for an attendant when she travels by air;

           -  Eric Norman, a resident of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador,
              with a rare disease resulting in paraplegia, who required an
              attendant for air travel.   Following Mr. Norman's death in
              2006, the application was continued on his behalf by his
              Estate;

           -  the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, an organization
              composed of representatives from provincial and major national
              disability organizations.

    Linda McKay-Panos was granted intervener status after a decision of the
Federal Court of Appeal determined that she was a person with a disability as
a result of obesity.

    The respondents are:

           -  Air Canada, Canada's largest full-service air carrier and Air
              Canada Jazz, Canada's largest regional air carrier;

           -  WestJet, Canada's second largest air carrier;

           -  the Gander International Airport Authority, a non-profit
              organization which manages airport operations at the Gander
              International Airport, Newfoundland and Labrador.

    Five other Agency cases which raise similar issues involving Air Canada
were placed on hold pending the outcome of this application. In addition, the
Agency adjourned a similar case involving the foreign air carrier, Martinair
Holland N.V., until the domestic complaints were resolved.

    This complex case required extensive written pleadings, hearings and
expert evidence. The proceedings were stayed for 18 months while Air Canada
was completing a significant corporate restructuring, and adjourned for
10 months to address delays in the filing of expert reports. The Agency also
held four weeks of public hearings in 2005 and 2006 and the last evidence was
filed in August 2007.

    Mandate of the Canadian Transportation Agency

    The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent tribunal of the
Government of Canada which operates like a court. As outlined in Section 5 of
the Canada Transportation Act, the objectives of Canada's national
transportation policy are most likely to be achieved through regulation and
strategic public intervention only when competition and market forces cannot
provide viable and effective transportation services, when rates and
conditions do not constitute an undue obstacle to the movement of goods and
the mobility of persons, including those with disabilities, and when
governments and the private sector work together for an integrated
transportation system. Part V of the Act gives the Agency specific
responsibility to eliminate undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with
disabilities within the federal transportation network.

    Determining whether or not an obstacle is undue

    Applicants must establish that there is an obstacle to the mobility of a
person with a disability in the federal transportation network. The onus of
proof then shifts to the respondent transportation service provider to prove
that the obstacle is not undue.

    The service provider must show that reasonable accommodation has been
provided up to the point of undue hardship.

    In most cases, there will be a range of alternatives available to address
the needs of a person or a group with a disability. In the end, reasonable
accommodation will be the most appropriate accommodation which would not cause
undue hardship to the service provider.

    To establish undue hardship, a service provider must show that it has
determined there are no reasonable alternatives to better accommodate the
person with a disability affected by the obstacle and that there are
constraints that make the removal of the obstacle unreasonable, impracticable,
or in some cases, impossible.

    Judicial direction

    The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed in March 2007, in Council of
Canadians with Disabilities v. Via Rail Canada Inc., that the accessible
transportation provisions of the Canada Transportation Act are, in essence,
human rights legislation. The Supreme Court also found that principles of the
Canadian Human Rights Act must be applied by the Agency when it identifies and
remedies undue obstacles, including the principle of reasonable accommodation.

    In its 2006 Tranchemontagne v Ontario (Director, Disability Support
Program) decision, the Supreme Court reinforced a fundamental principle of
accessibility that persons with disabilities are to be treated with dignity
and respect. Included in this notion is that all persons with disabilities are
entitled to be treated in the same manner regardless of the underlying reason
for their disability, with no discrimination in terms of entitlement to
benefits.

    The January 13, 2006 Federal Court of Appeal decision in Linda McKay-Panos
v. Air Canada confirmed that a person who is obese may be disabled for
purposes of air travel if unable to fit in an airline seat.

    The Agency's Decision No. 6-AT-A-2008 on the one-person-one-fare
application may be viewed at www.cta.gc.ca. The Executive Summary, a
backgrounder on the one-person-one-fare policy and two news releases may be
found in the Media Room at www.cta.gc.ca
    




For further information:

For further information: News Media Enquiries: Jadrino Huot, (819)
953-9957; General Public Enquiries: info@otc-cta.gc.ca , 1-888-222-2592; The
Canadian Transportation Agency is online at www.cta.gc.ca; To keep up-to-date
with our latest news releases and other information, use our subscription
service available on our home page under "subscription".


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