by Abdulaziz A. Al-Mohisen
Senior Specialist, Saudi Airlines
As the world is becoming a small village all the human efforts have to join hands and emerge with new effective programs to assist the persons of special needs. Saudi Arabia is very fast growing country with an average age span of 70 years. Saudi Airlines have been providing services to passengers of special needs since 1992. There are approximately 1,500,000 citizens requiring special needs and a total of 28 domestic airports in Saudi Arabia, hence the air transportation of passengers of special needs is vital.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia government have supported the persons of special needs by granting a discount on all the governmental transportation including Saudi Airlines with 50 percent reduction of air fares covering one companion on both domestic and international flights with no limits on the number of flight per year.
In 1997 Saudi Airlines established the onboard services programs (special need unit). Since then, have continuously been studying and researching the exact needs of the special needs community in air travel.
The airline have gathered all the data required, providing unhindered air travel with the following services.
- Blind passenger services are offered in Braille.
- Special meals for blind passengers are available.
- Deaf passenger services are offered. A card with 53 illustrated pictures to convey information on all the services needed on-board.
- International sign language on the in-flight safety video.
- Special meals are available for the autistic passengers in accordance to the IATA AUML code.
- Wheelchair services are available in our airports with low check-in counters.
After all the years working with the special needs civic associations, local rehabilitations centers and the persons with special needs, the airline developed a special employment program unit. With the special needs unit currently employs 24 deaf youths in the catering service unit.
The passengers with special needs are treated as "friends" of the airline fulfilling their specific travel requirements with follow-up till passengers arrives at their destinations.
The airline has a dedicated around the clock hot telephone line covering all complaints and queries from passengers of special needs. Additionally a special frequent flier program for the passengers with special needs was launched with 5,000 miles awarded upon enrollment, this enables the reservations to recognized the passenger of special needs and provide the necessary support and services allocated to the unit.