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Disabled passenger says he was forced to drag himself off a plane after airline's blunder

Gerrard Kaonga

Published 
| Last updated 

Disabled passenger says he was forced to drag himself off a plane after airline's blunder

Featured Image Credit: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images / THOMAS CHENG/AFP via Getty Images

A disabled passenger has said he was forced to drag himself 12 rows to the front of a plane after a blunder by the airline.

Wheelchair user Rodney Hodgins, 49, from British Columbia, said Air Canada failed to provide him with any support at the end of his flight.

This error put a massive damper on a trip that was meant to be a celebration for Rodney and his wife, Deanna. The pair were flying from Vancouver to Las Vegas in August to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

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Rodney Hodgins said Air Canada failed to provide him with any support at the end of his flight. Credit: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Rodney Hodgins said Air Canada failed to provide him with any support at the end of his flight. Credit: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Rodney, who has spastic cerebral palsy, is used to traveling and uses a motorized wheelchair. Due to his normal wheelchair being too wide for the airplane, he had expected to use a narrow aisle chair.

Normally when he travels, after all the passengers have left the plane, a member of staff will bring a narrow aisle chair - a very narrow wheelchair that is controlled by handles.

After landing at their destination, the couple said they were told that no help and no aisle seat was coming so Rodney would need to get to the front of the plane by himself.

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At first, Rodney and Deanna thought this was a joke.

"How am I supposed to get to the front of my plane when I can't walk? If I didn't need a wheelchair, I wouldn't have been sitting there,” he told CBC News.

The couple were flying from Vancouver to Las Vegas. Credit: GEOFF ROBINS/Contributor/Getty Images
The couple were flying from Vancouver to Las Vegas. Credit: GEOFF ROBINS/Contributor/Getty Images

Feeling out of options and not wanting to hold up the plane, Rodney lifted himself to the floor and used his arms to drag himself to the front of the plane in excruciating pain. His wife crawled in the aisle behind him for support.

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The couple also said that the Air Canada flight crew, the pilot, co-pilot and two flight attendants and eight cleaning staff watched but did not intervene.

“It was quite painful for me to do that in the first place. It hurt my legs. For three days I felt terrible on my holiday,” Rodney explained.

“I thought, they don’t care about me, they just want me to get off this plane.”

Deanna added: "You are watching this man grab the back of a chair and then struggle and fight while I'm on the ground, crawling on the ground moving his legs, and we're trying to get him to the front of the plane. I'm fighting his spasms trying to lift up his legs."

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Rodney lifted himself to the floor and used his arms to drag himself to the front of the plane. Credit: Getty Stock Image
Rodney lifted himself to the floor and used his arms to drag himself to the front of the plane. Credit: Getty Stock Image

Once Rodney reached the front of the plane, he was able to access his motorized wheelchair.

Though the pair went on to enjoy their vacation, the experience left Rodney in significant pain for a number of days.

The airline said in a statement: “We use the services of a third-party wheelchair assistance specialist in Las Vegas.

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“Following our investigation into how this serious service lapse occurred, we will be evaluating other Mobility Assistance service partners in Las Vegas.”

Rodney has said that Air Canada customer service has contacted him and offered a $2,000 flight voucher for future travel.

"I thought - it's not about that. I want you to change your policy so that you always have somebody there all the time when a person with a disability is coming off that plane. I just really don't want this to happen to another person," he said.

UNILAD has contacted Air Canada for comment.

Topics: News, Travel, Canada, US News

Gerrard Kaonga
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