Even if you're prescreened and perfectly prepared, getting through the airport is a stressful event. Waiting in tight lines surrounded by all the other travelers and then squeezing onto a plane is enough, but then you have to worry about your luggage arriving on time. All of these complications and more can be exceptionally stressful for passengers who require mobility devices.
Other transportation industries have policies in place that allow travelers with customized wheelchairs to enjoy their trip with comfort and security. Wheelchairs are allowed to stay with passengers on trains like the Amtrak, and seats usually come with an opportunity to charge the chair's battery. Meanwhile cruise lines like Carnival  (CCL) – Get Free Report, Royal Caribbean Cruises  (RCL) – Get Free Report, and Disney Cruise Lines  (DIS) – Get Free Report all allow most custom wheelchairs on board. These companies usually recommend that you contact their staff beforehand so they can work with wheelchair-users to accommodate their specific mobility needs.
Unfortunately, plane travel is still the most time-efficient way to travel, making it a necessity for a lot of people professionally and personally. If airlines are ill-equipped to accommodate wheelchairs, it creates a real barrier for folks whose mobility aids don't come off the flight in workable condition. 
Andrew Gurza is a disability advocate who uses his social media platform to shine a light on the struggles and triumphs disabled people experience in their daily lives. Gurza, who uses both he/him and they/them pronouns, hosts the podcast "Disability After Dark", and their job as a disability awareness consultant requires travel to and from events.
Recently, Gurza posted on Twitter, saying that a flight with Air Canada left his wheelchair badly damaged. According to Gurza, they were treated very poorly during the interaction, and were only offered a $500 flight voucher for damages done to a $30,000 custom chair.
Gurza expressed optimism in a later Tweet about sharing his experiences with the air line staff. But the advocate later said that on his trip home, his wheelchair was damaged again. The airline had also lost a very valuable chair Gurza requires to shower.
The airline told Newsweek in a statement that incidents like Gurza's are rare and that it devotes "considerable resources" to assisting travelers with mobility issues.  "We fully recognize the importance of mobility aids for customers and have prescribed processes for transporting them safely. Regrettably, given the volume carried, there are rare occasions when we do not meet our service levels," the airline told the magazine.
Air Canada has had other complaints about its mishandling of equipment vital to the wellbeing of its disabled passengers. Just days before, disability advocate Maayan Ziv said that Air Canada would be covering the cost of her new customized wheelchair–more than two weeks after the company damaged it. But customizing a chair is a long process. Waiting for third-party companies and adjustments can cause a disabled person a lot of pain and debilitation.
According to Ziv, her previous chair was also pretty new–it had been purchased for her by American Air Lines  (AAL) – Get Free Report after the company broke her wheelchair on a previous trip. Gurza has also expressed that this is an industry-wide problem, saying that that they've experienced similar issues with their mobility devices regardless of airline.
Air Canada actually scored relatively well in a recent ranking of the the best airlines for wheelchair users compiled by Simple Flying, an online site devoted to commercial aviation news.  The airline came in fourth, behind British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Jet Blue.
The issue has gained the attention of airlines and travel officials alike in the last few weeks. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said he wants to work toward a future where wheelchair users are allowed to use their personal chairs on flights — meaning expensive and sometime irreplaceable devices won't be damaged in cargo.
Last week, representatives from several major U.S. airlines signed a pledge to improve accessibility, which includes setting up a disability advisory board, more and better training for employees, and the support of innovative techniques when it comes to providing access to disabled passengers. The statement goes on the say that “Passengers with disabilities represent one of the fastest growing traveler segments, and we recognize the importance of facilitating a safe, seamless journey for them. We recognize the need for a specific commitment to remove barriers to safe, accessible air travel.” Representatives from Alaska Air Group  (ALK) – Get Free Report, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines  (DAL) – Get Free Report, Hawaiian Airlines  (HA) – Get Free Report, JetBlue Airways  (JBLU) – Get Free Report, United Airlines Holdings  (UAL) – Get Free Report, and Southwest Airlines  (LUV) – Get Free Report.


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