'CHICKEN POX RISK': AirAsia staff in Vietnam prevented them from boarding plane
KUALA LUMPUR: A MALAYSIAN and her 14-month-old daughter, who were prevented from boarding an AirAsia flight back home from Vietnam, are expected to be flown back home today.
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.
A fellow passenger, who happened to be a doctor, examined Mariam and said the baby was fine to travel but the staff persisted, claiming that they needed an official doctor's letter stating that the baby was safe to travel.
Izan's sister, Norhamiza Mohd Ali, 53, said the Malaysian embassy in Vietnam had stepped in to assist her sister and niece.
"They will return once a clearance letter is provided by a hospital there. I contacted my brother, who works for Tourism Malaysia in New York, and he enlisted the embassy to make travel arrangements for them," she said, adding that Malaysia Airlines had agreed to fly them home at a special price.
She expressed disappointment that the AirAsia ground staff did little to help her sister other than agreeing to have her sent to a hospital or hotel.
"The management could have made alternative arrangements to help my sister. It was bad enough that they only informed us at the 11th hour that Mariam could not board the plane.
"Izan said the staff only dropped her off at a nearby taxi stand. Worse still, the money they had paid for the return ticket and luggage was not refundable."
Norhamiza thanked fellow passengers at the waiting area who donated money to Izan after seeing her predicament.
"My sisters and I had taken our mother to Vietnam for Mothers Day and did not expect this to happen."
Izan's case was first brought to light by TV3 executive producer Mazidul Akmal Sidik on his blog yesterday after he witnessed the incident. He said he tried to help the mother and daughter, and pleaded with the airline staff to reconsider their decision.
An AirAsia spokesman said the airline acted based on its obligation to the 170 other passengers expected to board flight AK1455.
"We cannot risk the safety of the other passengers as the child was suspected of carrying a contagious disease.
"Our standard operating procedure dictates that we need an official clearance letter from a doctor before we can allow her to board the plane."
On claims that its staff failed to assist Izan and her daughter, the spokesman said the airline would investigate the allegation.