In a no-so-surprising decision last month, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) ruled that severe allergies are in fact a disability. What does that mean to the average traveler? Well, it’s a tough call at this point, but down the road, Canadian airlines may have to accommodate passengers who have severe allergies, and those accommodations may include prohibiting pets in aircraft cabins.
Basically the ruling stems from three separate complaints received from passengers who have severe animal allergies. All three passengers feel that the airlines (Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet) should ban pets in the passenger compartment as an accommodation for their disability.
The first step in addressing the complaint was for the CTA to decide if these three folks have the standing to file a complaint. In other words, are they disabled? That was pretty much the easy part; and in the end, the CTA agreed that all three individuals have allergies severe enough to qualify as a disability.
The hard part? That’s deciding what to do about it all. In other words, what are the airlines going to be required to do to accommodate these allergy-disabled travelers? Currently all three airlines allow pets in the cabin — a policy which the complainants strongly object to. They want it changed. The CTA is looking into the matter, and studying the airline policies and possible solutions and modifications.
Who knows what may happen in the end. Maybe a total ban on pets or maybe some kind of policy banning pets on flights that already have an allergy-disabled passenger on board. Or maybe listing certain flights as “no pet” flights. Or maybe something else — something that nobody has even imagined at this point.
One thing is for sure — it won’t affect service animals at all. The CTA strongly stressed that issue in their ruling. And the complainants have no problem with that, as most have allergy issues with cats rather than dogs.
The whole issue is something to keep an eye on, though. Remember the CTA is the same agency that instituted the “One-Person One-Fare” regulation last year — another policy modification that stemmed from customer complaints. So at this point, anything is possible.