AirAsia sets aside RM6 million for facilities catering to the disabled
By : Hamidah Atan
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AirAsia is living up to its tagline “Now Everyone Can Fly” with the introduction of several facilities for disabled travellers.
Yesterday, its chief executive Datuk Tony Fernandes launched the facilities, including ambu-lifts and special aisle wheelchairs, for passengers requiring assistance at its low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) near here.
The budget airline had set aside RM6 million for the purchase of the equipment.
For a start, two ambu-lifts will be used at its terminals in Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu to get the disabled into its planes without having to be carried by ground staff.
Other terminals will feature similar amenities within four months while all new planes will be equipped with the aisle wheelchairs so that the disabled can move around on board.
As a mark of further co-operation between AirAsia and the disabled community, AirAsia will also hire handicapped people to work at its guest services counters and call centres.
Its website will also be upgraded so that the disabled can use it.
“What we can do for them, we will do and what we cannot do, we will pass to the Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad (MAHB). We will try to do our best for them.
“For total immobile passengers, we are working with airbus engineers so that they can be helped. However, it is important that they give us at least a three-hour notice so that we can change the seats for them,” Fernandes said after launching the facilities together with Barrier-Free Environment And Accessible Transport Group (Beat) members, including its coordinator Christine Lee and her assistant Peter Tan.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy recently issued a directive to AirAsia and MAHB over complaints from wheelchair-bound passengers that the low-cost carrier had refused to accommodate them on its flights.
On June 15, Beat members had staged a protest at the terminal over the airline’s refusal to accept passengers requiring special assistance.
The group had called on the airline to provide facilities for passengers who were immobile and those with limited mobility and for MAHB to ensure all existing and new airports were equipped with facilities for the disabled.
Fernandes had denied that the airline had turned away wheelchair-bound passengers, saying ground staff would take such passengers to the aircraft and carry them on board.
He had said they were not even charged and there was certainly no discrimination against them as all they had to do was to inform AirAsia in advance of the assistance they needed.
Meanwhile, Fernandes said AirAsia has submitted a request to the government requesting limited access into Singapore, that being two flights a day.
“What is good for Malaysia is not protection. Since AirAsia has come along, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has got a lot better.
“My view on protection is old-fashioned,” he said in response to the statement by MAS managing director Datuk Idris Jala that MAS was against the idea of allowing limited flights by low-cost carriers to Singapore, saying that MAS needed time to get back on its feet.