Air Canada apologizes for telling soldier with PTSD her service dog not welcome
Published Monday, January 13, 2014 4:34PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 13, 2014 7:12PM EST
Air Canada is apologizing to a soldier for a “misunderstanding” after she was told her service dog, which helps her cope with her symptoms of PTSD, was not allowed on board a flight she had booked to attend her grandmother’s funeral over the weekend.
In a statement sent to CTV News Monday afternoon, Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline has a policy to accept service animals for passengers with a number of disabilities that are not limited to physical impairments. Once passengers submit a form filled out by their doctor, “professionally trained and harnessed” service animals are allowed on board.
“In fact, we provide extra space to accommodate them,” Fitzpatrick said.
“In this particular case, we have invited the customer to provide us with more complete information to allow the customer to travel on Air Canada with her service animal. We apologize for this misunderstanding.”
Shirley Jew’s ordeal began on Saturday, when she contacted Air Canada to inform the airline that she would be travelling with her service dog, Snoopy, from Edmonton to Toronto. In one of several posts she made to the airline’s Facebook page, Jew says she and Snoopy had flown on Air Canada as recently as December without incident.
On this occasion, however, Jew says her call was passed around from employee to employee. All of them told her that Snoopy did not qualify because Transport Canada did not recognize her PTSD as a disability requiring a service dog.
“They keep referring to her as an emotional support animal and she is not,” Jew posted to Facebook.
Transport Canada allows service animals onto flights when they are accompanying patients with a variety of conditions, from vision or hearing impairments to mobility limitations. Air Canada’s rules, as posted to the airline’s website, suggest service animals for emotional or psychiatric support are permitted only aboard flights to the United States.
On Sunday, Air Canada responded to Jew on Facebook, saying that Snoopy could be allowed into the cabin as a pet if she paid the $50 pet fee.
“We have spoken with our medical desk and they have informed us that they explained to you that PTSD isn't yet recognized by the Canadian government as one of the conditions requiring a service animal,” an Air Canada social media representative named Nisha wrote to Jew on Facebook, saying service animals for PTSD are allowed on flights to the U.S. only.
Nisha suggested that the airline would be happy to add “your pet” to Jew’s passenger file if she paid the $50 pet fee.
However, Jew opted to accept a refund from the airline and book a flight on WestJet instead.
The airline also took to Facebook to inform Jew that she can register her service animal via the airline’s medical desk.
With reports from CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson and Richard Madan