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Air Canada fined $97K after B.C. man forced to drag himself off flight


The Canadian Transportation Agency has issued a $97,500 penalty to Air Canada after a B.C. man was forced to drag himself off a flight – and the airline could be facing a lawsuit next.

Prince George resident Rodney Hodgins, who has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair for mobility, was put in the uncomfortable position last August after Air Canada's third-party ground assistance personnel were unavailable to help him off his flight in Las Vegas.

"I've had a mobility issue all my life, so this has been going on for a long time," Hodgins said. "Finally I just got fed up and said, that's it, I'm gonna say something."

The resulting penalty against Air Canada is for several violations of the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations.

"It is a win, yeah, for sure," said Hodgins of the decision.

But Hodgins and his wife – who was with him during the incident, as they were celebrating their anniversary on the trip – won't receive any compensation from the penalty. The couple is instead considering taking Air Canada to court.

"It's not over by a long shot. We have retained counsel," said Deanna Hodgins.

The airline previously apologized to the couple, and acknowledged in November that it violated Canadian disability regulations.

In a statement on Friday, Air Canada said it is continually working to "update our processes, introduce new measures to facilitate travel, and act quickly to remedy any identified shortfalls."

"We fully appreciate the importance of making sure our customers with disabilities travel without encountering barriers and receive consistently reliable service," the statement said.

Air Canada also said it has hired a new third-party provider help customers with disabilities in Las Vegas, and that the company will take over in the new year.

Air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukas said the penalty against Air Canada "sends the right message," but he's concerned the airline was only punished because the incident received so much attention in the media.

"Are we going to see here a trend that serious fines are going to be issued for each time a passenger's rights are being violated, or is it just a one-off?" Lukas said.

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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