BACK HOME: Infant had been prevented from boarding flight home by AirAsia because of 'health risks'
KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIA Airlines has flown home a mother and her 14-month-old daughter who were prevented from boarding an AirAsia flight back home from Vietnam.
Izan Suhaila Mohd Ali, 36, and her daughter, Mariam Sofea Mohd Reza, were held back by AirAsia staff at the Ho Chi Minh airport on Saturday night after the latter was suspected of having chicken pox and deemed a health risk to other passengers.
Malaysia Airlines group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said Malaysia Airlines learned about Izan's predicament from Tourism Malaysia.
"As it is a standard procedure for all passengers with symptoms of contagious disease to get a fit-to-fly certification from a doctor, we made the decision to take Mariam to a doctor. This is to ensure that no one passenger puts the health of another passenger at risk."
He said Malaysia Airlines staff picked up the two from the hotel they were staying to a clinic.
"A doctor examined the baby and confirmed she was no longer contagious. It was confirmed that the black spots she had were actually dry scabs.
"Immediately after that, our staff worked on preparing travel documents for Izan, Mariam and two other relatives. They were booked on flight MH759 that departed Ho Chi Minh so that they did not have to spend another night in Ho Chi Minh and incur more costs."
He said Malaysia Airlines staff based there drove the family back to the airport from the hotel for a quick check-in and they boarded the flight and departed Ho Chi Minh at 4.40pm yesterday.
Jauhari said that the safety of passengers had always been a priority and thus, all measures were taken to help Izan and her baby, while at the same time, ensuring other passengers' health were not put at risk.
"The ability of our team in Ho Chi Minh to act beyond their normal duties was praiseworthy.
"They went out of their way in displaying a true spirit of compassion and empathy. I would like to thank all the staff involved in helping the mother and her daughter."
Meanwhile, AirAsia Bhd chief executive officer Aireen Omar said the company had exercised its responsibility to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of its passengers were taken care of.
It also reserved the right to deny boarding passengers suffering from communicable or chronic diseases at its discretion.
"AirAsia adheres to global health regulations and standards in which a guest with chicken pox may only travel five days after the first symptom (rash) appears and must possess a valid medical certificate or doctors's letter to confirm that the guest is fit to travel," she said in a statement.
Aireen said that the guidelines, established by the World Health Organisation, were to avoid jeopardising the health of the other 175 guests on board the flight.
Aireen said AirAsia's ground representatives had provided the necessary assistance to the mother and her child and made arrangements to fly them back, as well as two accompanying adults, for free once the child was deemed medically fit to fly.
She said they were offered hotel and transportation arrangements.
Izan's sister, Norhamiza Mohd Ali, 53, had claimed that the AirAsia ground staff only dropped Izan and her baby off at a nearby taxi stand and did little to help other than agreeing to have her sent to a hospital or hotel.
Norhamiza also said fellow passengers at the waiting area of the airport donated money to Izan after witnessing her predicament.
Izan's case was highlighted by TV3 executive producer Mazidul Akmal Sidik, who witnessed the incident, on his blog on Sunday. He said he tried pleading with the airline staff to reconsider their decision but to no avail.