Sunday July 15, 2007
By PAUL CHOO
SEPANG: More than 20 disabled and wheelchair-bound members of the Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) held a protest against AirAsia for its refusal to take passengers who were completely immobile.
The protesters headed by BEAT coordinator Christine Lee, and assistant coordinators V. Murugeswaran and Peter Tan, demanded that AirAsia review its policies and take reasonable steps to ensure facilities and services provided at the LCCT were non-discriminatory.
Lee said that unlike KLIA, the LCCT does not incorporate aerobridges, which allow easier access for passengers to board planes.
“Passengers are instead required to walk up a flight of boarding stairs – a daunting task when one is disabled from the waist down,” she added.
Lee said that when booking AirAsia tickets online, a separate icon would appear on the website asking if the ticket purchaser would require “special assistance”.
“If you clicked “yes”, then you won’t be able to proceed with your booking.
“That’s when I called AirAsia’s call centre, and was told that they were unable to accept passengers who are completely immobile.
“This is even stipulated in Air Asia’s terms and conditions!” she alleged.
Lee also said that AirAsia charged RM12 for renting a wheelchair, which a passenger could use to go from the ticketing counter to the departure hall.
“One would then have to go from the check-in gate to the aircraft without the wheelchair, which is quite absurd,” she added.
Murugeswaran pointed out that AirAsia also stipulated that the carriage of persons with limited mobility was subject to whether they were able to climb the boarding stairs unaided or aided.
“Passengers who are unable to board the stairs without any assistance would be requested to travel with a carer or companion.
“This is blatantly discriminating, unfair and unacceptable. We want to be independent and not have to rely on other people to chaperon us when travelling,” he said, adding that nothing has been despite BEAT holding a dialogue with AirAsia on the matter more than two years ago.
During the protest, BEAT also urged Malaysia Airports Berhad to ensure all new and old airports in the country were equipped with facilities to improve accessibility to disabled passengers.
When contacted, an AirAsia spokesperson said they were unable to comment on the matter for the moment.