Disabled passenger removed from flight at YVR
Shayne De Wilde, 32, has cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia, but that’s not stopping him from playing the game he loves. De Wilde participates in power soccer, a sport adapted for people in wheelchairs.
The North Vancouver IT assistant travels frequently to host soccer events across Canada.
« I’ve flown a lot in my life, and with this wheelchair I’ve flown (for) about six years, and I’ve never encountered anything like it, » De Wide said. « When things went wrong was when I was on the flight. »
As he settled into his seat on a WestJet flight from Vancouver to Calgary last Friday, De Wilde was approached by airline staff, who told him there was a problem with one of his electric wheelchairs.
In an interview with CTV News, WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell explained that the chair was too high to roll into the cargo hold vertically, so the ground crew knocked it over on its side, causing the lights on the back of the chair to activate. And Bell says that’s a big deal.
« The plane cannot take off with any kind of inadvertent power activation in the devices in the belly of the plane, » she said.
As the plane sat on the tarmac and passengers waited, De Wilde says the baggage handler asked him how to disconnect the wheelchair batteries. He called the medical device company and passed the phone to the ground crew to try and find a solution, to no avail.
« After nearly an hour of trying to fix it, the decision was made to unload the wheelchair and Shayne, ultimately, because the plane couldn’t take off safely, » Bell said.
De Wilde says being removed from the plane in front of other passengers because his wheelchair could not be safely stowed in the cargo hold was humiliating.
« It was really humiliating for me, considering I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m treated like a second-class citizen in my own country, » he said. « It’s disconcerting for me to see how is something like this still happening in 2022. »
WestJet acknowledges that the incident should never have happened.
« We sincerely apologize to Shayne, » Bell said. “We realize that it was not a pleasant experience for him to be on the plane, especially since he had checked in, done everything correctly and was loaded onto the plane. plane and his wheelchair was sitting there and it seemed to be turned off, and then when he got into the belly hold of the plane, that’s when the problems arose.
Ultimately, Air Canada was able to fly De Wilde to Calgary later that same day. This airline’s ground crew knew not to tip the wheelchair over when it was loaded onto the plane and removed the headrest to make sure it stood upright. WestJet said it will take steps to ensure this mistake never happens again.
« I think the ground crew learned a lot from that, even dealing with the other operator who carried the wheelchair. They know how to handle that, » Bell said. next time to make sure that doesn’t happen. »
De Wilde says many of his friends who use wheelchairs are hesitant to fly for fear of having these kinds of problems with their essential equipment.
« I think it’s important to bring this to light and help these airlines and people be aware, » he said.
He wants airlines to make sure all staff and contractors know how to handle wheelchairs correctly. And he won’t let the embarrassing incident stop him from flying, saying:
« I play a sport and I compete, and you have to be able to travel while doing this sport. »