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Aircraft Boarding Chair

December 5th, 2007 - Wednesday

The width of a standard-sized wheelchair is approximately 24 inches. It is too wide to fit into the narrow aisle of an aircraft that can be as narrow as 20 inches. To facilitate the boarding of passengers with mobility impairments, airlines use aircraft boarding chairs. There are several models of aircraft boarding chairs. They are mostly rigid-framed chairs with small wheels for the front and back. Some are fitted with detachable larger wheels with push rims like those on wheelchairs to ease the independent movement of users around the airport premises. Users sitting on the boarding chairs with just the small wheels have to depend on airline staff to push them.

I have previously identified aircraft boarding chairs as aisle chairs. This is only partly accurate as boarding chairs are indeed able to traverse aircraft aisles. Boarding chair is used to move a disabled person from the check-in counter or outside the aircraft to the seat inside the aircraft. The chair removed from the aircraft after the passenger has transfered to the aircraft seat. The usage of this chair is dependent on the availability of an aerobridge connecting the aircraft to the airport terminal. In the next entry, I will write about on-board aisle chairs which are foldable or collapsible and are stored inside the aircraft.

Malaysia Airlines aircraft boarding chair at Penang International Airport
Malaysia Airlines aircraft boarding chair at Penang International Airport.

Japan Airlines aircraft boarding chair at Narita International Airport
Japan Airlines aircraft boarding chair at Narita International Airport.

Japan Airlines aircraft boarding chair with the large wheels removed
Japan Airlines aircraft boarding chair with the large wheels removed.

Related entry:
On-Board Aisle Chair


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AirAsia – Aisle Chair In Every Aircraft

August 6th, 2007 - Monday

Model of the aisle chair that AirAsia will equip all its aircrafts with
Model of the aisle chair that AirAsia will equip all its aircraft with.
Photo by Wuan.

A wheelchair user nicely tucked in an airplane seat would feel pretty helpless without the means to move around. Never mind that the seat is luxuriously leather. On long-haul flights, I usually inform the airline of my needs well in advance to ensure that they are prepared. For me, one of the most useful piece of equipment inside an aircraft is an aisle chair. I need that to get to the toilet. The aisle chair is also important for me to get into and out of aircrafts at the airport.

Malaysia Airlines aisle chair at Penang International Airport for moving passengers from the airport into the aircraft
Malaysia Airlines aisle chair at Penang International Airport for moving passengers from the airport into the aircraft.

Therefore it was great news for wheelchair users and those with reduced mobility when AirAsia Group Chief Executive Director Dato’ Tony Fernandes announced that all of AirAsia’s planes will be equipped with at least one aisle chair. This will clear a lot of anxieties for disabled passengers who need mobility inside aircrafts to empty their bladder in the privacy of the toilets.

Japan Airlines aisle chair at Narita International Airport for moving passengers from the airport into the aircraft
Japan Airlines aisle chair at Narita International Airport for moving passengers from the airport into the aircraft.

The aisle chair is actually a wheelchair without the large back wheels that we normally see. Small casters are used in place. It has a narrow seat and high back to fit into the narrow aisles inside aircrafts. The chair has 2 straps – one a diagonal restraint for the torso and the other to keep the legs close together. It is not a comfortable thing to be in but is essential for mobility. The chair is also very portable and easily foldable into very compact configurations for easy storage.

Japan Airlines aisle chair at Narita International Airport with the large wheels removed
Japan Airlines aisle chair at Narita International Airport with the large wheels removed.


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AirAsia – Dato’ Tony Fernandes Announces Measures To Resolve Problems Faced By Disabled Passengers

August 5th, 2007 - Sunday

AirAsia Press press conference backdrop at LCCT-KLIA
AirAsia Press press conference backdrop at LCCT-KLIA.
Photo by Wuan.

It is difficult not to love Dato’ Tony Fernandes, Group Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia, especially if one is a disabled person. Immediately after the protest by the Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT), Dato’ Fernandes personally met with members of BEAT to discuss the ways to resolve issues faced by disabled persons wanting to book seats to fly with AirAsia.

AirAsia GCEO Dato' Tony Fernandes giving his speech at the press conference at LCCT-KLIA
AirAsia GCEO Dato’ Tony Fernandes giving his speech at the press conference at LCCT-KLIA.
Photo by Wuan.

Following that meeting on July 20, AirAsia held a press conference yesterday (August 4, 2007) to officially announce the measures taken by the company to ensure that disabled persons will be able to fly with the airline. Dato’ Fernandes told members of the press and about 50 BEAT members who were present at LCCT-KLIA yesterday that AirAsia has purchased 2 ambulifts – one for LCCT-KLIA and the other for Kota Kinabalu International Airport – to ease the boarding and disembarking of people with reduced mobility and disabled persons.

Members of BEAT at AirAsia's press conference at LCCT-KLIA
Members of BEAT at AirAsia’s press conference at LCCT-KLIA.
Photo by Wuan.

He also announced the current fleet of AirAsia’s Airbus 320 planes and all planes in the future will be equipped with at least one aisle chair for the mobility of passengers. All toilets inside the aircrafts will be affixed with handle bars for the convenience of passengers. After the press conference, members of the press and BEAT were invited to test out an ambulift similar to the two that AirAsia have purchased and will be operational in 3 months. As part of the program to sensitise AirAsia staff on disability issues, Dato’ Fernandes invited BEAT to work with AirAsia Academy in training on those matters. He has offered to employ 3 staff at AirAsia’s call centre and a few more in guest relations positions. That was not all!

BEAT Coordinator Christine Lee giving her speech at AirAsia's Press press conference at LCCT-KLIA
BEAT Coordinator Christine Lee giving her speech at AirAsia’s Press press conference at LCCT-KLIA.
Photo by Wuan.

Dato’ Fernandes has allocated space on the skin of AirAsia’s newest plane, the 50th in the fleet that we had the privilege to see yesterday, to prominently promote BEAT’s and disabled persons’ cause like what is being done with Manchester United and the Williams F1 Team both of which AirAsia is sponsoring. That is not all yet! He has also requested from BEAT a tagline, quote or slogan for the message to be carried by Rooney and Ronaldo, both players of Manchester United. How cool can that be?

Dato' Tony Fernandes posing with BEAT members applauding AirAsia for resolving issues faced by disabled passengers
Dato’ Tony Fernandes posing with BEAT members applauding AirAsia
for resolving issues faced by disabled passengers.
Photo by Wuan.

I was a skeptic – still a little skeptical until I see the ambulifts and fly with AirAsia – but I have to give it to Dato’ Tony for being the only public figure in Malaysia who has taken the problems faced by disabled persons seriously and openly addressed it immediately. He has set a standard for all other corporations and the government to follow in making Malaysia an inclusive society. I like most his attitude when he said to take a negative and turn it into something positive.

An ambulift similar to the one that AirAsia has purchased parked beside the newest aircraft in the fleet at LCCT-KLIA
An ambulift similar to the one that AirAsia has purchased parked beside
the newest aircraft in the fleet at LCCT-KLIA.
Photo by Wuan.

Syabas Dato’ Fernandes; Syabas AirAsia; and most of all Syabas to my fellow advocates in BEAT, especially Christine and Ragu for making this happen. The journey may still be long but this success with AirAsia has shown us all that with the right attitude, anything is possible and the sky may not even be the limit.

More photos:

Ambulift docking beside AirAsia's newest Airbus 320
Ambulift docking beside AirAsia’s newest Airbus 320.
Photo by Wuan.

BEAT members watching a demonstration of the ambulift at LCCT-KLIA
BEAT members watching a demonstration of the ambulift at LCCT-KLIA.
Photo by Wuan.

BEAT members testing out the ambulift at LCCT-KLIA
BEAT members testing out the ambulift at LCCT-KLIA.
Photo by Wuan.

Peter Tan tranferring from plane seat to the aisle chair
Peter Tan tranferring from plane seat to the aisle chair. Holding the
chair from behind is AirAsia Executive Vice President Bo Lingam.
Photo by Wuan.

Peter Tan trying to get into the toilet in AirAsia's Airbus 320
Peter Tan trying to get into the toilet in AirAsia’s Airbus 320.
Photo by Wuan.

AirAsia's boarding stairs at LCCT-KLIA
AirAsia’s boarding stairs at LCCT-KLIA.
Photo by Wuan.

Read also:
AirAsia Still Practices Discrimination Against Disabled People
AirAsia, BEAT And What Disabled People Really Need


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