Disability activist says Air Canada’s crumbling wheelchair is ‘wet and mangled’

Disability awareness campaigner Andrew Gurza says Air Canada damaged his electric wheelchair and delivered it to him “drenched” after his flight to San Francisco.

Gurza tweeted about her experience on Wednesday, calling out the airline for the damage to her chair.

“Air Canada left my $30,000 [CAD] power wheelchair soaked yesterday on my flight from Toronto to San Francisco. They also mutilated my electric joystick to the point that I could hardly drive it anymore. Then they had the audacity to get mad at me because I was mad,” Gurza wrote. “After all that, all they want to offer me is a $500 voucher to fly with them again. The amount of stress and upset I have been through so far is unconscionable and totally unnecessary.

“Here are the photos of how my $30,000 gear was brought to me; wet, soaked and mangled. @Air Canada better fix it. I’m waiting,” he continued, along with photos of the damaged chair.

Gurza explained the situation to Newsweek, saying the airline said her chair was wet from the rain.

“Why didn’t they put the chair in a container, that’s what I would like to understand. They didn’t even bother to use a tarp,” Gurza said.

The damage to the joystick, he said, was due to mishandling when installing the wheelchair in the hold. Additionally, the custom seats were also damaged, rendering Gurza unable to sit up straight and leaving him in pain when using the chair.

“I have a problem every time I fly. It doesn’t matter which airline, every time I fly. It makes me so angry. It’s totally unacceptable and disrespectful to people with disabilities “, said Gurza. Newsweek. “I want Air Canada to know that a $500 voucher is a slap in the face for damaging what is essentially my legs. They need to create policies with disabled leaders so this never happens again.”

Air Canada’s media team says Newsweek that airline representatives met Gurza “immediately” at the airport and sent a mobile repair team to visit his hotel to repair the wheelchair. gurza said Newsweek that a technician had indeed been dispatched on Wednesday, but could not fix it, and told Gurza to wait until he got home to fix the chair.

Andrew Gurza sits in his damaged wheelchair at left; the two photos on the right show the damage to the chair’s electric joystick. He says Air Canada damaged the chair on its flight from Toronto to San Francisco.
Courtesy of Andrew Gurza

Air Canada said incidents like what happened to Gurza’s chair are rare. The media team said Newsweek that in 2019, 1.38% of customers (710,700 passengers) were in wheelchairs.

“The vast, vast majority of these customers have traveled normally. This is because we are committing considerable resources to assisting these customers, for example, we plan to schedule approximately 182 customer service agents each day this winter, mainly for move wheelchairs to our Toronto-Pearson global hub,” the airline said.

“We fully recognize the importance of mobility aids to customers and have prescribed processes to transport them safely. Unfortunately, given the volume transported, there are rare occasions when we do not meet our service levels. “, he continued.

On October 27, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that Air Canada would cover the cost of a new wheelchair for AccessNow CEO Maayan Ziv. Toronto resident Ziv flew to Tel Aviv for an accessibility conference in September when her chair, also valued at C$30,000 (about US$22,250), was damaged.

Ziva said Toronto City News that the damage to his chair was “appalling” and said his wheelchair was wrapped in bubble wrap to protect it during transport. Also, on the flight back to Toronto, her wheelchair wasn’t waiting for her — it had never been loaded onto the plane, she told CityNews.

Air Canada provided a temporary wheelchair and pledged to pay for either repairs or a replacement chair in early October, CBC reported. The airline told the outlet that “substantial complaints” take time to process. Ziv says she opted for a replacement chair, but told CBC it could take months to find all the parts to customize the new chair.

Air Canada addressed the delay to Newsweekand confirmed that it was covering the cost of a new seat and had in the meantime provided a temporary seat.

“As for Ms. Ziv, Air Canada immediately arranged for a mobile repair team to attempt to repair her chair. Also, we agreed to cover the cost of repair or replacement, but it took longer because third parties were involved and also Ms. Ziv was out of the country for a month,” Air Canada said. Newsweek.

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