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The Travel Section

Cat Allergy Ruled Disability on Airlines

The Canadian Transportation Agency wants to talk to Canada’s airlines about their policies for carrying small animals in the cabin. It made the request in a recent ruling in which it found that passengers with cat allergies have disabilities in terms of air travel.

The ruling looked at three cat-allergy complaints against Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz and WestJet. CTA decisions on allergy complaints are usually made case-by-case. But in this instance the agency requested the parties broaden the scope to examine airline policies on carrying all pets in cabins, not just cats, and allow interested organizations and individuals to comment.

The February ruling came shortly after an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal called pets on airplanes an “unnecessary allergic hazard,” and urged the airlines to put the needs of human passengers ahead of pets.

The CTA considers a condition a disability if it restricts the passenger’s ability to travel. In 2002, the CTA determined that not all allergies are disabilities, and so each case must be examined separately.

If the CTA decides having animals in the cabin is an obstacle to travel for some allergic persons, it could instruct the airlines to ban pets in-flight, but other options will also be considered. The airline regulator has asked the parties involved to agree to expand the investigation to include a “thorough review” of the airlines’ policies in regard to all pets in airplane cabins. Aside from the airlines, the CTA is also allowing other interested organizations to participate in this discussion.

The issue of pets on airplanes began to heat up in the summer of 2009 after Air Canada said it was once again allowing small pets on board. It had previously banned the practice in 2006. (WestJet, Canada’s other national carrier, always allowed small pets in its cabins.)

From the Spring 2010 issue of Allergic Living magazine.
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Read the CTA’s announcement

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