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Obese and Disabled Passengers on Canadian Airlines to be Tested to Qualify for Free Seat

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Weighing man at the scaleJust two months after losing a court challenge involving obese and disabled passengers, Canada’s major air carriers have unveiled controversial new procedures by which passengers must prove that they are eligible to get an extra seat and not pay for it.

Last November a Canadian Supreme Court decision forced airlines to comply with a Canadian Transportation Authority rule which says that airlines cannot charge double for plus-sized passengers who are “functionally disabled by obesity,” or travelers with accessibility problems who require an attendant.

On January 10 Air Canada and WestJet said that passengers seeking an extra seat must have their doctor fill out a form and send it to the airline for review well in advance of their flight.

Obesity- and disabled-rights groups have complained that the form, which requires passengers to disclose sensitive medical information, is invasive for passengers. Doctors note that Canada’s overstretched health system simply does not have the resources to deal with such non-essential visits in a timely fashion.

Airline advocates counter that the procedure may not be the most efficient or effective, but it did seem to be the most sensible option considering that allowing people to self-declare their status might be unworkable. And forcing people to take medical exams by airline doctors could be difficult for both airlines and passengers alike.

As alternatives, some doctors suggest simply using a tape measure to determine who needs an extra seat, though this procedure would not address the issue of people who are disabled by conditions other than obesity. Others suggest keeping the medical form requirement, but having a third party review them to avoid privacy concerns.

Though the CTA seems satisfied since the procedure puts the airlines in compliance with the “one person-one fare” ruling, it is highly likely that further refinement of the procedure will occur considering the outcry from various groups across Canada.

Related Links: MSNBC, PeterGreenberg.com: Canadian Supreme Court Rules in Big Airline Case

By Karen Elowitt for PeterGreenberg.com
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