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Flair apologizes after abandoning elderly amputee at Vancouver airport gate

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Angela Taylor lost her right leg below the knee in a car accident when she was a teenager.

But having a prosthetic limb and using crutches to get around hasn’t stopped the 74-year-old Nanaimo senior from travelling the world teaching the card game bridge on cruise ships.

However, she does require help navigating large airports. “I always get wheelchair assistance. I just do because it’s too hard,” said Taylor.

When her Flair Airlines flight from Puerto Vallarta landed at Vancouver International Airport last Friday, a wheelchair Taylor had pre-arranged was waiting for her.

“They wheeled me up the ramp to the gate where I was to wait for a golf cart. But it never came,” said Taylor.

She sat in the wheelchair at the gate for an hour. As midnight approached and the terminal cleared out, Taylor decided she had to get up and walk.

“I felt very alone and a little nervous and finally I thought I had better get going.”

Four days later, the amputee is still suffering from the forced walk on arm crutches from the gate to the customs hall. “I’ve been taking some pain meds because it hurts. My body is not used to that,” she said.

It is the airline’s responsibility to get passengers with disabilities from the plane to customs. In an emailed statement, Flair said it has apologized to Taylor, adding, “While the majority of Flair customers have a great experience with us, there was a miscommunication and lack of accountability in this particular situation and it didn’t meet the Flair standards of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our passengers.”

“Flair has offered me a $500 voucher. It’s not about that. It’s about making sure that nobody else is in my position,” said Taylor.

She wants airports to have a failsafe in case airlines don’t follow through on their responsibilities.

“Perhaps there should be people maybe in golf carts driving around just to see,” said Taylor. “There should be, until the last plane has landed and the last passenger accounted for, somebody driving around.”

YVR’s chief experience officer Eric Pateman says the airport is working on a new three-year accessibility plan for passengers with disabilities.

“We are adding a number of new zone leads as well as a curbside assistance program and dozens of new guest experience agents to enhance these types of services and experience going froward to make sure that these things don’t happen,” said Pateman.

“It makes you feel less than human. You’re treated less than human,” said Taylor. “You should be treated with respect, it’s something that should guaranteed.”

Despite being abandoned at the gate, Taylor plans to travel again. But she hopes her story, and others about passengers with disabilities being let down by airlines, will bring about change, adding, “I don’t want anyone else to go through that again.” 

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