CUMBERLAND RESIDENT Conner Copeman was unable to board a Central Mountain Air flight, apparently because his wheelchair was too heavy.
Conner Copeman had intended to catch a Central Mountain Air flight from Campbell River to Vancouver on the evening of April 20.
Instead, the wheelchair-bound member of Cumberland council went home. Apparently, his standard-powered chair was too heavy, according to CMA policy.
"They were willing to help facilitate some sort of rental on the other end, which is a kind thought but the setup is quite unique to the person that has the wheelchair," said Copeman, who needed to travel with an assistant. "It's not renting a car...It was just disappointing, to say the least."
Normally when he flies, Copeman's chair is placed in storage. Using a specialized Washington chair, he is boosted into a seat on the plane.
"It's a process," he said. "It's just a matter of transfers."
Copeman's wheelchair is nearly 300 pounds which, he notes, exceeds the airline's maximum wheelchair weight of 120 pounds. Still, he feels the aircraft is "more than capable of taking this type of weight and this type of standard chair."
He questions why the airline did not inform him of the weight issue ahead of time.
"At the very least, if they can't provide access to the disabled then they should pronounce that when they have sections in paperwork to allow you to be handicapped and fly with them. If they have the documentation available, it should contain the restrictions," said Copeman, noting other disabled travelers have encountered the same obstacle with CMA.
"From my perspective it's a matter of policy. I may not be an aircraft structural engineer but there's no reason why these workhorses, these turbo-propped planes can't take that type of weight, the luggage that they pack. Extra items for air freight quite commonly would challenge this type of weight."
Copeman spoke with CMA managers who said there were other passengers for whom they "had to make crazy arrangements."
Central Mountain Air operates a fleet of 14 twin-engine, 18-seat turboprop planes. Maximum load capacity on the Beech 1900D is 659 kilograms or 1,430 pounds, its website states. The Dornier 328 and Dash 8-300 can carry up to 50 passengers.
CMA contracts four planes and flight crews to Air Canada/Jazz, with flights in B.C. and Alberta. Calls to management were not returned.
The airline has reimbursed Copeman's worker but has not reimbursed his ticket. He booked the flight with a different agency, through which CMA said he needs to negotiate.