'It's still broken': Passenger takes on WestJet after airline drops wheelchair
Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston, CTV Vancouver
Published Tuesday, August 22, 2017 6:00AM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 22, 2017 7:21PM PDT
A Vancouver man facing debilitating illness says he's been dealt another blow by WestJet after the airline dropped his expensive electric wheelchair.
Despite attempts to fix it, Richard Kipping says it still isn't working correctly and that WestJet has given up trying to help him.
Kipping demonstrated the problem to Ross McLaughlin, showing him how the front right wheel of the chair shakes forcefully, which loosens the cables and causes the brakes to engage.
"There's times where I can't even steer it. It starts trembling so badly and it stops instantly,” he explained. “If I didn’t have a seatbelt on, I’d be flying off of it.”
Kipping says the problems began after he got off a WestJet flight to Las Vegas last year.
“When I stopped, the chair rolled forward and I almost came out of the chair and we looked down and the caster wheels were off the ground,” Kipping said.
WestJet admitted the chair had been dropped and, over the last year, made several attempts to get it fixed. The wheelchair, however, still had issues. At that point, WestJet gave up.
“With apologies for the inconveniences you have incurred, we have dealt with you in good faith and have compensated you in a fair manner,” the airline’s CEO, Gregg Saretsky, said in an email to Kipping’s wife.
"It's still broken,” argued Kipping, “We didn't ask them for money. All we want is the chair to work so I can get back to my normal life."
He says the stress isn't helping his recovery from Gillian Barre Syndrome.
WestJet told CTV News it followed a course of action recommended by the manufacturer by purchasing a specialized repair kit.
CTV News took a different course of action and got the manufacturer, Permobil, to inspect the chair. The Permobil crew included sales manager Mike Kozlowski and lead technician Drew Toth.
"I can tell it's in need of some service," said Toth, “Once a chair's been dropped we think it's better to probably get the chair replaced."
But the team did their best to make it safe for the time being.
After a quick test run, Kipping confirmed it was running a lot better. Permobil, however, said the chair will soon need to be replaced.
"We can't warranty the repair or service, so we normally recommend to replace the chair when it’s dropped,” said Kozlowski.
WestJet has no intentions of replacing it and the Kippings will never know whether the airline’s baggage handlers shortened the chair's useful life.
The Kippings have also filed a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency. If the agency finds WestJet is in the wrong, it could order the airline to do more.