Air Asia is under fire after a video emerged yesterday, September 29th, showing a disabled man dragging himself on the floor of an aircraft operated by the airline. According to reports, the man was forced to drag himself as he had not paid the US$40 fee that Air Asia charges for providing an onboard aisle chair.
This video has caused outrage among disability rights advocates, who say that it highlights the airline's discriminatory practices.
Backlash on social media led the airline to issue the following statement: "We have procedures in place for the carriage of disabled or mobility impaired guests, including the provision of an aisle wheelchair. This is highlighted during the booking process and can be booked in advance, at the time of booking, to ensure a smooth experience."
Wherever possible, Air Asia discriminates against disabled people by charging them fees for basic services like wheelchair assistance at the airport. The airline only provides such services free of charge where local laws demand that services for disabled people be provided without charge. Fees vary from a few US Dollars to up to 20 US Dollars. Other services, like onboard aisle chairs, are provided for an even higher fee.
Air Asia has a limit of four quadriplegic or paraplegic passengers per flight. If the maximum number of passengers per flight is reached, the booking system will not allow booking for that specific flight. In such cases, customers can either make a booking without wheelchair service or select an alternative flight where the allocation for this service is available.
Air Asia is the largest airline in Malaysia by fleet size and destinations. AirAsia operates scheduled domestic and international flights to more than 165 destinations spanning 25 countries.
It is simply astounding that despite the airlines' discriminatory practices against people with disabilities, AirAsia has consistently been named the world's best low-cost carrier for 11 years by Skytrax.
Malaysia has become a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol (UN CRPD) on 7th April 2008 and ratified the treaty on 19th July 2010. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international human rights treaty that promotes and protects the rights of persons with disabilities.
Reduced Mobility Rights will soon be writing to the Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) asking them to issue Air Asia with a cease and desist order in regard to their profiteering charges for disabled fliers' basic needs. This is unacceptable and it is time that something is done in order to stop this from happening.
We believe that Air Asia's current policy of charging exorbitant fees for disabled fliers' basic needs is discriminatory and unlawful. Disabled fliers already face enough challenges in traveling, and they should not be further penalized by having to pay sky-high prices for their basic necessities.
We urge MAVCOM to take immediate action so that disabled fliers can finally enjoy the same rights and privileges as other passengers.