Rights of the Disabled Passenger
The passenger and the consignor and consignee of air freight are the central figures in the air transport equation. Of these, due to the human factor, the passenger attracts more attention. The most vulnerable in air transport is the disabled passenger who does not get attention in the overall global regulatory framework. In November 2008, the Federal Court of Appeal of Canada handed down its decision against Air Canada that it and other carriers do not have the right to charge disabled or obese people for an extra ticket when they need an additional seat or an attendant to accompany them. The Court refused to hear an appeal from the airline, and rejected a Canadian Transportation Agency ruling that the applicant had to satisfy the Agency both that she was disabled by reason of her obesity and that she had encountered an undue obstacle in air travel. The majority of the three-member panel dismissed the application on the preliminary ground that the applicant did not satisfy the first condition. This ruling, although seemingly isolated, brings to bear the need to revisit the subject of the rights of a disabled passenger in the context of global principles as well as regional and national laws with a view to harmonizing them, primarily by incorporating global principles in national legislation. This article discusses global principles as well as regulations applicable in Europe and the United States and inquires as to how domestic jurisdictions should be guided in interpreting global rules within their internal rules and procedures.