Thursday, April 21, 2016

Flight ban is discriminatory says Toronto mom

By Louise Kinross

Yesterday, Kara Melissa Sharp and her family arrived at Toronto's Pearson airport at lunch time for a flight to Hong Kong at 3:30 p.m.

Almost 24 hours later, the family is still waiting at the airport.

Cathay Pacific won't allow them to board a plane to Hong Kong with a special car seat for their son Sebastian, who has cerebral palsy and seizures.

The Convaid seat, which Sebastian used on a WestJet flight to Florida last year, was approved by Cathay Pacific in December when Kara booked the flight.

Yesterday the airline informed the family that they don't allow car seats onboard for kids over 36 months. Sebastian is seven.

"I say disability discrimination," Kara says. "He can't travel without it."

Sebastian is unable to sit up on his own and can't eat or be fed through his stomach feeding tube without this supportive seat. The family also need the seat in order to rent a car in Australia, their ultimate destination.

At 3 in the morning, the family was denied boarding on a second flight. According to Kara, Cathay Pacific offered to have a five-point harness shipped on a flight from Hong Kong to Toronto for Sebastian.

But the family would need to wait to travel at 1:45 tomorrow morning. And Kara says the airline's harness "does not safely accommodate Sebastian's needs."

The fiasco calls to mind an incident last year when a disabled man was forced to crawl off an airplane after passengers disembarked and staff forgot to bring him a wheelchair. Ironically, the man, D'Arcee Neal, was returning from a talk he'd just given on accessible transportation for people with disabilities. In this related news item, the National Disability Rights Network says they got over 27,500 similar complaints about inaccessibility in 2014.

Kara notes that Sebastian is exhausted because he only got four hours of sleep last night. Lack of sleep is a trigger for seizures in children with epilepsy. 

According to the safety information on the seat (see below), it is certified for use in cars and aircraft when used with the harness.


What is the end to this horror story?

I am having trouble not including 4-letter words in my response... My son has little/no trunk control, and we used this exact car seat (convaid carrot) for plane travel and it was wonderful. We checked with the manufacturer, airline, and a flight-attendant relative - who all confirmed that any car seat is OK for travel as long as it has the certification sticker on the side. Since I'm in the U.S. - what are Canada's laws regarding this? If this isn't illegal, it should be.

Apparently Air Canada agreed to fly them to Vancouver and then Sydney -- I believe they were waiting for about 36 hours. Here's a story about it on CityTV.