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AirAsia, Wheelchair Users And Indemnity Form: The Ongoing Saga

January 7th, 2008 - Monday

With no satisfactory official response forthcoming from AirAsia regarding the policy of imposing indemnity form on wheelchair users after more than two months, I decided to refer my complaint to the Minister of Transport Dato’ Sri Chan Kong Choy and the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Dato’ Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

The complaint was sent via email just now and hardcopies will posted to the respective ministers and three other persons in the carbon copy list, namely Senator Prof Datuk Dr. Ismail Md Salleh, Society of Orthopaedically Handicapped Malaysia President Dr. Tiun Ling Ta and Malaysian Spinal Injuries Association President Dr. Rahim bin Noor. I am a member of both organisations. Not long after the email was sent, Ministry of Transport Secretary General Dato’ Haji Zakaria Hj Bahari forwarded the mail to AirAsia CEO Datuk Tony Fernandes asking him to take action accordingly.

Below is the content of my complaint letter:

4 Januari, 2008

Y.B. Dato’ Sri Chan Kong Choy Melalui emel dan pos
Menteri Pengangkutan
Blok D5, Kompleks D
Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan
62616 Putrajaya

Y. B. Dato’ Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil Melalui emel dan pos
Menteri Pembangunan Wanita, Keluarga dan Masyarakat
Aras 1-6, Blok E
Kompleks Pejabat Kerajaan Bukit Perdana
Jalan Dato’ Onn
50515 Kuala Lumpur

Dato’ Sri Chan dan Dato’ Sri Shahrizat,

PER: DISKRIMINASI TERDAHAP PENUMPANG YANG MENGGUNA KERUSI RODA OLEH AIRASIA

Saya ingin membuat aduan tentang perkara di atas yang telah berlaku pada diri saya.

1. Pada 30 Oktober 2007, saya bersama isteri saya telah daftar masuk di Lapangan Terbangan Antarabangsa Kota Kinabalu untuk menaiki penerbangan AirAsia AK 5107 ke Kuala Lumpur. Saya adalah pengguna kerusi roda.

2. Seorang pegawai AirAsia meminta saya menandatangani borang lepas tanggungan (Release and Indemnity). Antara fasal yang terkandung di dalam borang itu adalah:
- AirAsia tidak akan bertanggungjawab sekiranya berlaku apa-apa pada diri saya semasa penerbangan.
- Saya bersetuju menanggung segala perbelanjaan AirAsia yang mungkin disebabkan oleh diri saya dalam penerbangan tersebut.
- Saya telah menandatangani borang itu secara sukarela .

3. Saya telah membantah dengan sekerasnya dan meminta perkara ini dirujuk kepada pihak pengurusan AirAsia di Kuala Lumpur sebab perbuatan yang mewajibkan saya menandatangani borang itu adalah diskriminasi terhadap saya sebagai seorang pengguna kerusi roda.

4. Setelah pegawai itu merujuk kepada pengurusnya, saya diberitahu bahawa sekiranya saya tidak menandatangani borang tersebut, saya tidak akan dibenarkan menaiki pesawat. Saya tidak mempunyai pilihan kecuali menandatangani borang tersebut untuk dibenarkan menaiki pesawat kembali ke Kuala Lumpur. Apabila menandatangani borang tersebut, saya juga telah menulis dengan huruf besar yang terang bahawa saya membantah perbuatan tersebut. Salinan borang tersebut dilampirkan.

5. Saya telah memaklumkan kejadian tersebut kepada Datuk Tony Fernandez dan Encik Bo Lingam dari AirAsia melalui emel. Maklumbalas dari kedua-dua mereka sungguh tidak memuaskan. Sehingga kini, selepas dua bulan, pihak AirAsia masih belum memberi penerangan yang munasabah mengenai syarat ini kecuali mengatakan bahawa ia adalah syarat dari syarikat insurans mereka. Alasan ini tidak boleh diterima kerana Malaysia Airlines tidak mengenakan syarat ini keatas pengguna kerusi roda kecuali satu kesilapan di Jepun di mana Profesor Yutaka Takamine diminta mendandatangani surat lepas tanggungan. Malaysia Airlines telah pun meminta maaf kepada Profesor Yutaka seperti yang Dato’ Sri-Dato’ Sri sudah dimaklumkan.

6. Saya telah menghadiri kursus “Independent Living Program for People with Disabilities” di Jepun dan Thailand pada 2006 yang dianjurkan bersama oleh Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat Malaysia dan Japan International Cooperation Agency. Dalam penerbangan ke kursus-kursus tersebut dengan Japan Airlines dan Malaysia Airlines, saya tidak diminta untuk menandatangani borang lepas tanggungan. Saya juga telah menghadiri 7th Disabled Peoples’ International World Assembly dan Global Summit on Independent Living di Korea baru-baru ini sebagai speaker untuk kedua-dua perhimpunan tersebut dengan penerbangan Malaysia Airlines dan juga tidak diminta untuk menandatangi borang tersebut.

7. Saya ingin merujuk kepada cadangan daripada 18 pertubuhan OKU yang diserahkan kepada Dato’ Sri Chan pada mesyuarat di Kementerian Pengangkutan pada 12 Mac 2007 di mana kami meminta supaya syarat yang mewajipkan pengguna kerusi roda menandatangani surat lepas tanggunan yang diamalkan oleh syarikat penerbangan dilarang sama sekali. Salinan cadangan tersebut dilampirkan.

8. Syarat yang diskriminasi ini melanggar hak asasi saya. Saya berharap Dato’ Sri Chan dan Dato’ Sri Shahrizat akan mengambil tindakan dengan segera supaya perkara yang sebegini tidak berlaku lagi. Ia juga untuk memelihara hak OKU yang termaktub dalam Rang Undang-Undang Orang Kurang Upaya 2007 dan Konvensyen Mengenai Hak Orang Kurang Upaya (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).

Perhatian Dato’ Sri-Dato’ Sri di atas perkara ini amat dihargai.

Sekian, terima kasih.

Related entry:
BEAT’s Recommendation To The Ministry of Transport Malaysia


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Airlines, Indemnity Forms And Disability Advocates

December 11th, 2007 - Tuesday

Is the act of forcing wheelchair users sign indemnity forms before allowing them to board commercial flights a form of discrimination? That depends on who is answering the question. Some may ask why I am harping on this issue again. I am still annoyed, that is why. This entry is also inspired by a news article titled Airlines warned not to bar disabled in The Australian today. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Public Interest Advocacy Centre and disability groups in Australia are pursuing cases against airlines that imposes discriminatory policies against disabled air travellers.

I have flown with Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia. AirAsia is the only airlines that compels wheelchair users to sign an indemnity form before allowing them to board the aircraft. I have no complaints whatsoever against Japan Airlines. Their in-flight service was impeccable. I told them that I needed to go to the toilet at a certain time. The cabin crew came with an aisle chair right on the dot and assisted me to the toilet and back. I had several issues with Malaysia Airlines but they responded to my complaints politely when I wrote to them regarding the non-availability of an on-board aisle chair on my flight from Kuala Lumpur to Incheon and back. They even offered me one complimentary return ticket to any destination in Asia to make up for the shortfall in service which I declined.

AirAsia? The reply to the entry that I forwarded to them was disappointing. According to them the indemnity form is a requirement by their insurers and they are working to remove that condition imposed on wheelchair users. It was a premature move on my part to kick up a fuss when the process was still on-going. Nevertheless, I would like to reveal the double-standard that is being practiced. Members of BEAT who fly with AirAsia are encouraged to call up the management to make prior flight arrangements where they may not even be compelled to sign the indemnity form. Wheelchair users who are not part of BEAT and do not have access to AirAsia management do not have that privilege as evident by the other two wheelchair users whom I witnessed signing the forms at Kota Kinabalu. What kind of advocacy is that?

Although I was advised beforehand to make prior arrangements I did not because I wanted to experience for myself the kind of procedures that wheelchair users have to go through. Only then could I discover the kinks in the system. Having experienced it and revealed the bad experience to members of BEAT, I was blamed for causing irreparable damage to the group. I was expected to channel my grievances through selected people who would then create avenues for me to voice out my dissatisfaction. Apparently, the truth had to be filtered to make certain parties look good. See the difference in the RapidKL advocacy where nobody in BEAT reacted to the entries that were critical of the bus operator. That tells a lot, does it not? Harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi. That was why I left.

I shall not say more but allow my blogger friends cum disability advocates from around the world share with you their viewpoints on this issue of wheelchair users being compelled to sign indemnity forms.

My story – AirAsia Still Practices Discrimination Against Disabled People
Dr. Scott Rains – Picking on the Wrong Passenger: AirAsia Gambles on Discrimination
Eleanor Lisney – Air Asia Discrimination against disabled passsengers
Ivan Chew – Case of AirAsia and its provisions for People With Disabilities


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Discrimination Against Disabled Airlines Passengers

November 2nd, 2007 - Friday

Scott Rains blogs about “travel, disabilty and universal design” in Rolling Rains Reports. He gave his perspective on my experience in having to sign an indemnity form before I was allowed to board an AirAsia plane recently.


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