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Canadian Transportation Agency Decision Ensures Sufficient Space for Service Animals

The Canadian Transportation Agency issued a decision on June 20, 2008 ordering Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz to ensure sufficient floor space is provided for certified service animals at the person with a disability’s seat.

Today’s Decision continues to ensure equal access to the federal transportation network for persons with disabilities, regardless of the nature of the disability.

Traveling in a very constrained position has negative implications for a service animal which may impact on its ability to function and which may negatively impact a person’s well-being and increase the risk of injury, and therefore has safety implications for both the individual and the service animal.

The Decision applies only to the travel of certified service animals within Canada on Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz aircrafts with 30 or more seats.

A service animal is any guide dog, assistance dog, or other animal professionally trained and certified to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.

In accordance with section 149 of the Air Transportation Regulations, a carrier must accept a service animal for carriage at no additional cost to accompany a person on board an aircraft and permit the animal to remain on the floor at the person’s passenger seat.

Generally some discomfort may be caused when sharing seating floor space with service animals. However, in some instances additional space is required to prevent extreme discomfort to either the passenger or the animal. The need for additional floor space could be due to factors such as the configuration of the aircraft, the size of the animal and/or the duration of the flight.

While Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz have provided sufficient space for service animals in many instances, the carriers only confirm sufficient space accommodation without additional cost just prior to departure and are subject to space availability, thereby creating undue obstacles.

The Agency has ordered both carriers to take the following corrective measures within 90 days in order to remove undue obstacles to persons traveling with a service animal:

  • Develop policies and procedures for domestic flights to ensure that, at the time of reservation and upon receipt of a request at least 48 hours in advance, seating with sufficient floor space will be provided for the person traveling with their service animal, at no additional cost.
  • Make a reasonable effort to provide the service when less than 48 hours advance notice is provided.
  • Enter into dialogue with the person traveling with a service animal to determine floor space requirements of the service animal and how best to accommodate these requirements.

The Agency will also undertake a consultative process specifically on the service animal provision contained in the Agency’s Code of Practice for Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in order to provide guidance to air carriers on floor space requirements. This Code addresses the physical accessibility of aircraft equipment and features, and offers practical, functional, operations-oriented solutions to problems faced by persons with disabilities.

The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent tribunal that operates like a court to render decisions on a case-by-case basis. The Agency’s jurisdiction with respect to persons with disabilities, stated in Part V of the Canada Transportation Act, is to ensure that persons with disabilities have proper access to effective transportation service. The Agency makes decisions and orders to eliminate undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities in the federal transportation network.

For further information, you may Send an e-mail to the Canadian Transportation Agency or telephone 1-888-222-2592. The Agency is online at Canadian Transportation Agency link. To keep up-to-date with their latest news releases and other information, use the subscription service available on their home page under “subscription”.