AirAsia has apologised for a paraplegic passenger having to crawl across the cabin to get to his wheelchair when the plane landed at Changi Airport. Citing a TikTok video which has since been deleted, media outlets reported that the man was struggling to crawl along the aisle. He was also clutching a seat handle for support.
The video was accompanied by a caption which explained that the passenger landed at Changi Airport with AirAsia QZ268 from Jakarta on 29 September and was asked to pay SG$40 for an aisle wheelchair when the passenger's seat was only three metres away from the exit. "This is how AirAsia treats their paraplegic passengers," the caption read.
Kesavan Sivanandam, AirAsia's chief airport and customer experience officer, told A+M that the safety and well-being of its guests are always its number one priority.
"We have procedures in place for the carriage of disabled or mobility impaired guests including the provision of an aisle wheelchair, which is highlighted during the booking process and can be booked in advance, at the time of booking to ensure a smooth experience. We have reached out to the guest to sincerely apologise and will ensure an incident of this nature does not occur again," he added. AirAsia is unable to reveal guest details due to privacy laws.
Statistics by Meltwater from 30 September to 3 October showed that chatter surrounding this issue spiked on 30 September and the top keywords included "video of paraplegic", "down aisle", "passenger, "aisle wheelchair", and "disabled man aisle". Most of the chatter came from Singapore while a handful were from Indonesia, with the majority of it being negative (50.5%). Only 3.8% were positive while the rest were neutral.
AirAsia's website displays wheelchair fees for one-day direct flights and according to the airline, prices may vary depending on the passenger's travel period. A wheelchair service from Indonesia to Singapore costs approximately IDR120,000 (SG$11). Passengers can also prebook the service at least four hours before the scheduled flight departure time. It added online that failure to prebook may result in wheelchair service being unavailable upon arrival at the airport.
Aside from this recent chatter, the airline also received the highest number of complaints in the first half of 2022 (42.1%), followed by Malaysia Airlines (40.7%) and Batik Air (7.9%). AirAsia also contributed 36% of the complaints surrounding flight cancellations.
Customer experience is no doubt an important aspect of a customer's relationship with brands. Salesforce's fifth edition of the State of the Connected Customer report released this year showed that 88% of customers feel the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services, marking an 8% jump compared to 2020. Meanwhile, 73% said they expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, an increase from 66% in 2020. Also, 62% expect companies to anticipate their needs, a 6% increase from two years ago.
Meanwhile, Zendesk's CX Accelerator report said that "exceptional" is what businesses must strive for when it comes to meeting customer expectations. However, even CX champions - those who are considered the highest standard-bearers - are struggling to meet rising consumer expectations, as unresolved queries have risen up to 157% year-over-year. The study also revealed that 66% of customers are less patient than last year, while 64% of companies say customer service has a direct impact on business performance.
To remain on top, companies need to evolve the role of customer experience by rethinking the role of support teams. According to Zendesk, this requires investing in training and tools to ensure agents have what they need to uncover leads and close deals. This method has, in fact, reaped rewards for companies as champions are six times more likely to uncover a new sales opportunity in more than 25% of their customer interactions. They are also 62% more likely to find sales opportunities during customer interactions compared to starters, which are still relatively early in their customer experience maturity.
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