Saudi Arabia Airlines PR Deputy Director issued a statement earlier this week highlighting the airline's commitment towards passengers with disabilities.
"We are among the very first airlines which took care of the disabled," Abdullah Bin Masheb Al-Ajhar boasted. "We are providing integrated services to the passengers of special needs on our flights, at 27 domestic airports and in all international airports; there are specialists who take care of the disabled the moment they arrive at the airport and during the flight until they arrive at their final destination." Saudia's special needs team opened to the public 16 years ago.
Al-Ajhar also remarked that Saudia is to facilitate travel for passengers with special needs by introducing a 50 per cent discount on air fares for passengers with disabilities.
Reduced Mobility Rights has taken a closer look at Saudi Arabia Airlines services for passengers with special needs, and spotted one major best practice inconsistency.
Saudia requires certain passengers to travel with a Medical Statement Information Model (MEDIF) issued within seven days from the date of travel. However, this requirement may be inapplicable or void on flights operated to and from the United States. Among the cases where MEDIF is required we found one quite extravagant: "the presence of the passenger may cause discomfort to other passengers due to his physical or behavioural status."
Technically this derogatory clause could apply to just about anyone who needs assistance. By example, apassenger raising a concern because another passenger requires assistance to move about the cabin could be sufficient.
One the plus side, Saudi Arabia Airlines provide very good support tools for the visually and hearing impaired. Safety cards, menu cards, and a monthly magazine are available in Braille. Safety films are translated into sign language. Aircraft carry illustrated guides. Featuring 53 illustrated pictures, the guides provide information of all on-board features and services available to passengers.
Saudi Arabia Airlines has a three star rating on the acclaimed airline review site Skytrax. Most common complaints concern cabin crew training inconsistencies, last minute flight cancellations and frequent delays.
Do you require assistance when flying? Have you recently traveled on a Saudia flight? Have your say.