Airplane Fares for People with Disabilities


People with disabilities who need someone to accompany them on an airplane are now allowed to bring a caregiver free of charge when flying on a Canadian airline. It was reported in the CBC that this came about because the Canadian Transportation Agency ruled that the airlines had a duty to accomodate people with disabilities and that to do so did not impose an undue hardship on the airlines. It was appealed by the airlines but the Federal Court of Appeal agreed with the transportation agency.Then the airlines appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada who also turned them down.

This advocacy was initiated in 2002 by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and two individuals to whom we owe our collective gratitude.

The rules are on the Canadian Transportation Agency website.

As of December 26, 2008 the airlines are still trying to develop policy based on the above ruling. It looks like people will need a doctor’s note and the criteria will be if the person requires support during the flight, rather than a companion or just needing support on either side of the airplane trip. There are still many questions about how restrictive this policy will be for passengers who have a disability.

One tip is that when you get your doctor’s note ensure that she/he writes the note in accordance with the policy (that the person requires in-flight support). To ensure that you have to get only one note, ask your doctor to indicate that the disability is permanent.

The ruling takes effect as of the new year. Please share your
experiences with us when you attempt to book a flight that includes an


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2 Responses to Airplane Fares for People with Disabilities

  1. Kevin Lusignan says:

    Here is a story by the Vancouver Sun that talks about the CMA’s reaction to the requirement for a doctor’s note. Westjet’s fare policy allows for an attendant for the following reasons:

    • a personal attendant to provide care with meals, medication, using
      the toilet, or in an emergency evacuation or decompression issues.
    • additional seating to accommodate a disability (including obesity)

    The rest of Westjet’s fare policy is on this link. 

    Recently, we had a positive experience when booking a flight for our son who has Down Syndrome who needs an attendant to fly. We took him to the doctor and got a note that cost $30, filled out the forms and faxed the information to the medical desk. They called back in 1 day and said his application was approved and that it would be kept on file and from now on we would just have to contact the medical desk to book another flight. 

    We found it a respectful and appropriate process. And the people were nice too. Way to go Westjet!

    And Air Canada’s policy requires people with disabilities to now get approval to fly from a doctor. If they get approval then the person with a disability can apply to get permission for an attendant to fly for just the cost of the taxes. One good thing is that Air Canada pledges to keep your doctor’s note on file so you don’t have to go through the whole exercise again. Oh but that was my assumption. I called Air Canada to check it out and I was told that they would keep it on file for up to two years and perhaps five under the right circumstances.

  2. Kevin Lusignan says:

    There is alaways two sides to a Story… So far we have been talking about people with disabilities who want an attendant to be with them when they fly. At the same time, there are people with disabilities that prefer to be indepedent and want to fly on their own.

    However, Air Canada has policy to exclude people with disabilities from flying and in this story by CBC they talk about a man who was denied and took Air Canada to the Human Rights Tribunal. The Tribunal agreed that it is discriminatory to prevent a person from flying and awarded the man $10,000 plus requiring Air Canada to develop better policy. I guess this is something to keep in mind when booking your ticket.

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