Jaxson Creasey was looking forward to his flight to Victoria for weeks, but the mood quickly shifted when he was denied boarding a Lynx Air flight due to his accessibility device.
Creasey moved to Calgary from Victoria in October and was on his way back to the Island for a few very important reasons.
“I was actually supposed to pick up a new wheelchair, this was a very important trip then I had to cancel two days’ worth of appointments,” Creasey told CHEK News. “I moved here in October, I haven’t seen my best friends in six months, I was so excited. And this ruined all of that when it was preventable.”
He arrived at the airport the recommended three hours in advance and right away ran into trouble trying to check in.
“The first issue that happened when we were met by customer service, was the type of battery,” Creasey said. “On their website, it says that if you have a wet battery, which is a type of wheelchair battery on a lot of scooters and standard electronic mobility devices, it has to be removed.”
However, the battery in Creasey’s wheelchair is not easily removed, requiring a lift, a specialized mechanic, and specialized tools in order to properly remove it.
After two hours of negotiation, Creasey was finally permitted to go and board the plane, but that is when he ran into the second problem. Because of his disability, he needs a body brace in order to sit upright without his wheelchair. He says he has flown with this device 20-30 times and it has not been a problem. The only Transport Canada requirement is that the safety belt needs to be able to fasten with an assistive device, which Creasey says it can.
“They defined it as a car seat, not assistive technology,” Creasey said, noting car seats can be used on an airplane but they need a Transport Canada sticker, which assistive devices like his body brace do not have. “They said that wasn’t safe. So I had to off-board and arrange for a caregiver to come and pick me up because we didn’t have my vehicle, we had been dropped off.”
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Creasey notes on Transport Canada’s website, it says assistive devices, like his brace, do not need to be approved since they are all individualized to the person who uses them, so the regulations for car seats do not apply to his body brace.
Since Creasey was not able to board the flight, he says this will have an impact on his life, especially because he won’t be able to pick up his new wheelchair.
“I needed a new chair for a while. This new one would have improved seating capabilities, which would have improved my overall comfort and quality of life,” Creasey said. “My old chair is quite old and at the end of its life and as a result, it has technological breakdowns from time to time that are pretty inconvenient.”
Creasey says he was also looking forward to seeing his friends, because although his family has been able to come visit him in Calgary, he hasn’t seen his friends since he moved in October.
“I’ve been talking about this trip for weeks, I really, really miss my best friends,” Creasey said. “This is the first time I’ve ever lived away from home, so it’s been especially hard not seeing my friends. My family has been able to come out, but being in my mid-20s, a lot of my peers have full-time jobs that make it difficult to get time off work, and we were finally excited to have a weekend together, we had all these awesome plans but we had to cancel them.”
He is due to start a new job with Calgary Surge – an incoming professional basketball team – next week, so he isn’t sure when he’ll next be able to make the trip.
Lynx Air tells CHEK News in a statement it is conducting an internal review on Creasey’s situation.
“We are currently investigating the situation to understand exactly what happened and to identify any necessary changes to our policies and communications to ensure that this does not happen again,” the statement says.
“Safety is our top priority, and we are committed to providing a safe and inclusive travel experience for all our passengers. Unfortunately, in this case, we fell short of our own high standards, and we recognize that we need to do better. We will review our policies for assisted seating devices in accordance with Transport Canada.”
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Earlier in the day, Creasey had tried reaching out to Lynx Air for a refund, but was denied. After CHEK News received Lynx’s statement, Creasey says he received a phone call from the airline.
“They have refunded the flight and are working on compensating me for the extra costs that I incurred,” Creasey said in a follow-up email to CHEK.
“I have also requested to have a meeting with the individuals involved in the processes at airports. I have asked that another individual with my condition who is an advocate in the community can join so that we can help the airline really prevent this from happening again.”
Creasey says Lynx has fully admitted they failed their responsibilities and are looking for a way to make it right. He says he looks forward to speaking more with the Lynx team to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.