The Malaysian Aviation Consumer Protection Code 2016 (the code) regulates airline service standards and consumer protection in Malaysia. The code recognises that a "person with a disability" is a person whose mobility is reduced when using transport due to a physical disability, intellectual disability or impairment, or age, and whose situation needs special attention and for the services that are made available to all passengers to be adapted to their needs.(1)
The non-discrimination of people with a disability is provided for in section 9 of the code. An airline generally cannot refuse to accept a reservation for a flight from an aerodrome to which the code applies or refuse to embark a person with a disability at such an aerodrome on the grounds of disability. The code also sets out specific procedures and timelines for airlines when they are notified that a disabled person requires assistance and obliges airlines to aid the person concerned on arrival or in transit at the aerodrome.
However, the current provisions of the code do not impose a mandatory requirement on airlines to ensure that parents or people who are accompanying children or people with disabilities are able to sit next to or close to them during air travel. The code also does not prohibit or even address the imposition of surcharges for reservation and selection of seats, which is a common practice among airlines – especially low-cost carriers operating in Malaysia. The code merely provides for an airline's full disclosure of air fares, including any surcharges, to consumers.(2)
The current provisions of the code are inadequate in securing every passenger's right to travel safely, particularly minors and people with a disability or reduced mobility. In Italy, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority recently introduced a new provision which mandates all airlines operating in Italy to assign seats for minors and people with disabilities or reduced mobility close to their parents or accompanying people at no additional cost.(3) The Italian Civil Aviation Authority enforced this provision by imposing a fine on budget carrier Ryanair and commencing proceedings to fine three other carriers – easyJet, Wizz Air and Volotea – for non-compliance.(4) As safety during air travel should not come at a price, the Malaysian regulators, such as the Malaysian Aviation Commission, should consider implementing similar provisions for the benefit of all consumers of civil aviation.
For further information on this topic please contact Sharon Chong or Tan Hui Wen at SKRINE by telephone (+603 2081 3999) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The SKRINE website can be accessed at www.skrine.com.
(3) Italian Civil Aviation Authority press release 43/2021 dated 17 July 2021.
(4) Italian Civil Aviation Authority press release 52/2021 dated 17 August 2021 and Italian Civil Aviation Authority press release 54/2021 dated 20 August 2021.