On January 10, 2008 the Canadian Transportation Agency (the
"CTA") released a landmark decision that orders
certain Canadian carriers, namely Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz
and WestJet, to amend their current air fare policies to
implement a one-person, one-fare (1P1F) policy. This policy
enables persons with a disability to pay one fare regardless of
the number of seats that they require to accommodate their
The revised fare policy applies to those persons who are
required, under the terms of the carriers' tariff to be
accompanied by an attendant and those persons with a
disability, the nature of which requires accommodation by
additional seats. While the policy will apply to persons
disabled by obesity, the CTA specifically stated that the
policy does not apply to obese persons except those who are
disabled by obesity. However, it is not clear how this
distinction will be drawn by the carriers in practice. Indeed,
the CTA did not dictate how passengers will be screened for the
application of the policy and leaves it in the hands of the
carriers to establish proper screening mechanisms.
The decision applies to domestic air services and not to
international routes. Because the three affected airlines
represent over 90 percent of the domestic market, the CTA
dismissed concerns that the order would put them at a
competitive disadvantage in the domestic air services market.
It should be emphasized that the policy does not apply to
foreign airlines operating in or to Canada.
In dismissing the carriers' cost-based objections to the
policy, the CTA noted that it was not necessary for a carrier
to establish that the accommodation would threaten its survival
or alter its essential character but only that the impact on
revenues would have financial implications which would result
in undue hardship. The CTA estimated that 0.32 % of the
carriers' domestic passengers will require this form of
accommodation resulting in a 0.09% and 0.16% impact on
passenger revenues of Air Canada and West Jet respectively,
which the CTA characterized as "immaterial" and not
an undue hardship.
The CTA also dismissed the carriers' safety concerns and
determined that the establishment of screening mechanisms to
assess the eligibility under the 1P1F policy also did not
result in undue hardship to the carriers.
The policy does not specifically require the carriers to
provide the accommodation in all fare classes. It may therefore
be open to the affected airlines that offer premium class
service to restrict the application of the 1P1F policy to
economy seats only.
To our knowledge, Canada is the first jurisdiction to
implement a 1P1F policy. While the European Union recently
implemented a regulation concerning the obstacles faced by
disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when
travelling by air, it did not regulate fares. In the United
States, if a carrier determines that a passenger requires an
attendant, contrary to the passenger's self-assessment,
then the carrier may not charge an additional amount for the
attendant's transportation. Additionally, while some
airlines voluntarily provide for various discounts or rebates
to particular classes of disabled persons, these are
discretionary policies, not prescribed by law.
The CTA decision received a surprising amount of coverage in
the Canadian and international press. Whether this uniquely
Canadian fare policy is fair is definitely controversial.
The foregoing provides only an overview. Readers are
cautioned against making any decisions based on this material
alone. Rather, a qualified lawyer should be consulted.
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