AirAsia is once again in the spotlight, for reasons that are up to one to judge whether right or wrong.
According to accounts posted on blogpost Mazidulakmal, on 19 May, Izan Suhaila Mohamad Ali and her 14-month-old baby, Maryam Sofea was not allowed to board flight AK1455 from Ho Chi Minh to Kuala Lumpur because the child was alleged to be suffering from chicken pox.
With little cash on hand, Izan was left behind with Maryam and to make matters worse, AirAsia’s ground staff did not offer any ground arrangements or compensation to Izan, as claimed by the blog.
Incidentally, blogger Mazidul Akmal Sidik, who is also a journalist at TV3, was there to witness the whole incident and subsequently wrote about it on his blog, complete with photographs.
The blog went viral and the following day, AirAsia issued a press statement on its Facebook page.
“Referring to the issue raised in social media in regards to the guest denied boarding flight AK1455 from Ho Chi Minh to Kuala Lumpur, we wish to clarify that the guest was not allowed on board because the child had chicken pox. This was confirmed by the Vietnam airport doctor on duty who declared the baby unfit to fly.
On being informed the situation of the guest, AirAsia has made arrangements to fly back the mother and the baby as well as 2 accompanying adults for free, once the child is declared fit to fly by the doctor.
AirAsia is following global health standards in which guests with chicken pox may only travel 5 days after the rash first appeared, providing the spots are scabbed over. This is to be supported by a medical certificate or doctor’s letter confirming you are fit to fly.
As per guideline established by World Health Organisation (WHO); to minimize the risk of passing on infections, passengers who are unwell, particularly if they have a fever, should delay their journey until they have recovered. Passengers with a known active communicable disease should not travel by air.
We advise that passengers travelling with any infectious illness such as chickenpox, rubella, measles or mumps check our website about the guidance to whether you can fly.”
AirAsia’s statement was received with mixed reviews, with some saying the airline lacked compassion, while others lauded it for taking precautionary safety measure.
“You don’t expect AA to play the sympathy card just because the casualty was a baby. Rules are rules. I much rather have one family suffer than having [sic] 100 plus passengers infected, isn’t that common sense people?” wrote Nambee ‘Ron White’ Ragavan on AirAsia’s Facebook page.
As it turned out, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) quickly stepped in and offered to fly the mother and child home to Kuala Lumpur.
The national carrier went further to issue a statement entitled “Malaysian Hospitality Beyond Borders” which explained its decision to fly Izan and Maryam back to Malaysia.
“We are glad that the team in Saigon displayed 100% Malaysian Hospitality in this situation. The ability of the team to act beyond their normal duties is to be highly applauded,” Malaysia Airlines group chief executive officer, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, was quoted as saying in the press release.
This incident raises many questions but one must ask: Was MAS’ quick response a genuine act of kindness or was it a PR stunt that took advantage of the situation to rub salt to AirAsia’s already somewhat bruised wound?
Last week, AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani was criticised by certain quarters for his tweet condemning Malay daily Utusan Malaysia for its racist headline.