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Air Canada Launches New Measures for Guests With Disabilities

Under their Accelerated Accessibility Plan, Air Canada has today announced that they have become the first airline in North America to adopt the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program to better serve guests with unseen disabilities.


Air Canada Becomes First Airline in North America to Adopt the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program - Courtesy Air Canada

On Tuesday (January 30, 2024), Air Canada announced that they have become the first North American airline to adopt the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program to better serve guests with non-visible disabilities.  The carrier has also confirmed their first appointments to their new Customer Accessibility Advisory Committee, which will help guide the acceleration of their three-year accessibility plan.


In Tuesday’s announcement, Air Canada’s VP – Customer Experience and Operations Strategy, Tom Stevens, said,


“Air Canada is the first airline in North America to adopt the Sunflower program, which will enable us to better assist and serve our customers with non-visible disabilities such as autism. Our customers make 1.3 million accessibility requests each year and this initiative further demonstrates our commitment to improve accessibility, which we are reinforcing through the creation of a Customer Accessibility Advisory Committee.  Consisting of customers with disabilities from accessibility groups in Canada, the committee will contribute to heightened awareness and help us identify barriers and develop solutions.”

 

Also commenting on Air Canada’s adoption of the program, Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Scheme Limited’s CEO, Paul White, said,

 

“We are delighted for Air Canada to become the first airline in North America to officially launch the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower program.  Air Canada and the Sunflower are aligned in our commitment to ensure that Sunflower wearers are recognized and receive the additional support, understanding and kindness they need during their air travel journey.”

 


Brain Injury Canada’s Board Director and a member of Air Canada’s Customer Advisory Committee, Paul Rogers, added,

 

“It gives you great confidence, in that you know that you can be seen. It's a very visual tool without me having or anyone having to explain and have that conversation.  And it's reassuring knowing that there's somebody who's got your back. Who's there and can see what's going on and help you out.”

 

Hidden Disabilities Sunflower is a globally recognized program that uses a discrete sunflower symbol to identify customers with non-visible disabilities.  Air Canada customers can now wear the Sunflower lanyard, which will indicate to the airline’s team members that the customer may require additional assistance, have specific needs or simply require more time when traveling.  Air Canada is also now providing training and building awareness among all customer-facing employees to recognize and respond appropriately to participating customers.  The lanyard is available at check-in counters at Hidden Disability Sunflower member airports in Canada, and also onboard flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Rough and Air Canada Express.

 

Air Canada’s Customer Accessibility Committee will provide input from the perspective of customers with disabilities to help guide the carrier’s vision in accessibility as part of their Elevating the Customer Experience program.  Initially, the advisory group will have representatives from four Canadian accessibility groups, including Donna Jordan from Barrier Free Canada, Paul Rogers from Brain Injury Canada, Isabelle Ducharme from Kéroul, and Joanne Smith representing Spinal Cord Injury Canada.


As part of Air Canada’s Accelerated Accessibility plan announced in November 2023, improvements for guests with disabilities encompass four main areas.  First, customers at the boarding gate who request lift assistance will consistently be boarded next and seated at the front of the cabin booked.  Next, mobility aids will be stored in the aircraft cabin, where possible, and when they are stored in the cargo hold, new systems are being putted in place to track them in transit.  Customers can now track the movement of their mobility aid on the Air Canada app. 


Thirdly, Air Canada’s approximately 10,000 airport employees will receive annual and recurrent training to improve all aspects of interactions with disables customers.  Finally, Air Canada has created the new senior position of Director – Customer Accessibility, who will lead a team to manage the implementation of the company’s accessibility plan.    


Air Canada is Canada’s largest domestic and international airline.  The Canadian flag carrier is a founding member of the Star Alliance and holds a Four-Star ranking from Skytrax.  Air Canada provides scheduled passenger service to 180 airports in Canada, the United States, and internationally on six continents.  Through the carrier’s Aeroplan loyalty program, customers can earn and redeem points on the world’s largest airline partner network of 45 airlines.  Air Canada Cargo offers air freight lift and connectivity to hundreds of destinations across six continents with a dedicated fleet of 767-300 Freighters and passenger aircraft belly hold capacity.  Additionally, the airline has committed to a net zero emissions goal from all global operations by 2050.


 

Source: Air Canada/CNW     

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