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Air Canada alienates customers

By Christopher di Armani
web posted May 15, 2006

Air Canada recently announced a new policy effective June 1, 2006: unloaded firearms will be subject to a $65 one-way handling fee because the airline views them as "dangerous goods".

An interesting claim, given the guidelines from Transport Canada, which regulates air travel safety among other things, states in its Dangerous Goods Standard Notice No. 17 Item No. 4: "The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TDGR) does not regulate the transport of unloaded firearms as there are no dangerous goods present."

When questioned on the new policy, Air Canada Customer Solutions Representative Ryan Dickson stated "The new firearms handling charge per one-way journey brings firearms handling in line with other special baggage that requires incremental manual handling."

Air Canada currently charges special handling fees for over-sized items such as surfboards and bicycles.

Firearms in locked cases, however, are nowhere near the limits for regular-sized baggage, and firearms owners cannot understand why there is any special handling required.

Recreational Firearms Community member Bruce Mills of Ontario states "Air Canada is obviously discriminating against law-abiding gun owners. This situation is unconscionable for a public carrier, especially one that receives millions and millions of our tax dollars in bailouts."

But why does Air Canada consider unloaded firearms dangerous when Transport Canada does not? Dickson did not elaborate on this point, stating only "firearms cannot be loaded with regular baggage. These extra steps adds significant additional complexity to handling firearms that is not present when handling regular baggage."

Air Canada rival airline Westjet's spokesperson Gillian Bentley said she did not understand why Air Canada is charging the fee or why they claim unloaded firearms are dangerous goods.

"Westjet has no intention of introducing a similar policy", she stated. "Law-abiding firearms owners have always been welcome on Westjet, and we will continue to ensure they have access to reasonably-priced air travel."

Sheldon Clare, BC President of the National Firearms Association, stated "Firearm owners are sufficiently concerned about this that there is already some movement towards a full-on boycott of Air Canada due to this surcharge." He added that the NFA is currently talking with Air Canada officials to reverse the new policy and hopes to have an announcement shortly.

Christopher di Armani is a freelance writer based in Lytton, BC. He can be contacted at christopher@diArmani.com or visited on the web at http://diArmani.com.

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