B U S I N E S S
Saturday August 4, 2007
AirAsia to provide disabled-friendly facilities
SEPANG: Responding to protests by the disabled, low-cost carrier AirAsia said it would spend RM6mil to provide ambulifts and aisle chairs for wheelchair-bound passengers.
There will be no additional cost for disabled passengers, the airline said.
It said it would also go one step further by hiring disabled people to provide services to disabled passengers, as they would understand their needs better.
AirAsia chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said all the facilities and services, including disabled call centres via their website, would be ready in about three months.
He said AirAsia initially wanted Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAB) to provide the facilities but had later decided that the airline could do it on its own for the sake of its loyal passengers.
He said the matter could not be resolved after discussions with MAB but they found solutions after discussing with members of Barrier-Free Environment And Accessible Transport Group (BEAT), a coalition of 18 non-governmental organisations for the disabled who led the protest last month.
“The move will see AirAsia acquiring two ambulifts; one for the airline’s hub in Kuala Lumpur and another in Kota Kinabalu to transport disabled passengers directly from the ground to the aircraft and vice-versa,” he said, adding that prior to this, airline staff had to physically carry disabled passengers on board the aircraft.
Aisle wheelchairs, he said, would be used to push disabled passengers to their seats, adding that BEAT had also offered to train AirAsia cabin crew and call centre staff to handle disabled guests.
Fernandes added that about seven disabled people, after being vetted by BEAT, would be employed as guest service officers and at disabled call centres.
He said that the facilities would be inadequate for totally immobile passengers, but added that for emergencies, AirAsia engineers remove some seats to enable such passengers to lie flat.