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Date [ 2014-12-31, 09:45 ]

A Cheap Mind in Service as well as Technology
Air Asia comes up as a bad apple for some flight passengers


(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) Benjamin Kim = "Now everyone can fly", which is the well known tag line of the AirAsia group. It means “All the fares are very affordable so anybody can enjoy air travel via AirAsia without being burdened by heavy expenses.

” However, I would like to change the above sentence to "Now everyone can miss their flight". If there is someone who already has had these experiences when using AirAsia service at least once, they will know exactly what I mean.  

Recently this mid-February, I was trying to get air tickets through one of my colleagues for my business trip from KL to East Malaysia and decided to book the AirAsia flight.

Actually I have bad memories of this low cost airline from its early days, maybe about 10 years ago. At the time the airline just started its operations, I had a business trip from KL to Penang via AirAsia.

After the flight departed, in mid-air, the aircraft began shaking violently. It bellowed with big noises several times and I was under the impression that at any moment it was going to plunge to the ground. It was one of the most frightening moments in my life.

Now that I was going to fly AirAsia again, I decided to put my past horrifying experiences aside and simply trust my colleague’s advice. He told me, “Their service has been upgraded since you last flew with them. Though the service can be said to be average, for their low pricing, it is more than adequate.”

Half in fear, half in anticipation, I finally agreed to fly AirAsia. A comparison made on their online page, revealed that their fares were much cheaper than regular (legacy) airlines.  I finally proceeded to do the booking step by step. What was funny was the fact in the process of finalizing my ticket involving insurance coverage, seat assignment, baggage, tax and food requirements, the fare just kept going up, minute by minute.

I made a payment by credit card and realized the final fare I paid was not much cheaper than legacy airlines. You could say the margin of difference was almost hairline thin. While I was made to do the Progress Payments rather rapidly, receiving the flight confirmation letter from AirAsia took such a long time. The waiting period had me stressed out and worried.

I found out that I could access information about Self Check-in and Mobile Check-in online. It informed that if a passenger does not have any luggage, it is possible to do Self Check-in and enter the departure hall 30 minutes before flight time. I was pleasantly surprised and also happy that AirAsia was operating with the latest technology. As a frequent economy-class flyer, I like to keep abreast of the latest systems under operation by an airline.

I was more than prepared to try out these online systems the next day when I would be actually flying. I very diligently downloaded the two mobile applications, feeling excited that I would be able to finally use AirAsia’s upgraded technologies and services.

Finally, the next day, I left to LCCT (low cost airport terminal) early and tried to do the Mobile Check-in in the car. It was 2 hours before departure time. However, one message suddenly appeared. It explained that Check-in Time was currently too early, so I could try again at about 9:40am. Fair enough, so I headed to the waiting lounge, in anticipation of the correct time to do the Mobile Check-in. Finally it arrived, 9.40am and I tried once more.

I keyed in the reservation number, Airport Name, phone number, email address and pressed the button to submit my details. But Oh my God!… A Red Warning Message "Not Available" floated up on my mobile. I was surprised, confused , agitated and immediately ran over to counter No. 45. It was then about 9:50am and some people were still standing in a row to do their check-in for the same flight as me.

The AirAsia counter staff said that Mobile Check-in was not available if the departure time fell within 1 hour of take-off time.  I did not have time to argue so I just followed the staff’s advice to go to another counter at No.65. By now I was in an emergency situation and felt I could not adhere to the call to “Please queue..” So I tried to talk to the staff of the next counter -  No.66.

There were few passengers on this line comparatively, and the staff there very graciously informed me, he would attend to me once he was finished with his current passenger.

I felt a surge of relief and waited my turn for a while. However when my turn came soon, the counter staff said just very simply “Now I am  unable to do the check-in.” He made no effort to explain what the situation really was, nor made any attempts to solve the problem. I explained in detail to him about how the mobile check-in had not functioned as it should have and thus caused my check-in delay.

The answers I got back from him actually stunned me speechless for a minute. All I got from him was insincere, unprofessional answers. What made me see red was his comment it was neither his fault nor his business!

I could barely keep calm my anger down and asked “I must go now, can you let me know how to do it?” He then pointed in the direction of the luggage entrance and added, “Only possible through there.”(Maybe it meant “You may send your luggage now.” Or did he expect me to jump on the carousel and be carted on to the plane as baggage, travelling in baggage compartment until Tawau.) I was really angry and suddenly flushed hot and cold. All of a sudden I shouted at the staff’s behavior. Not only had he been rude but he had done nothing to give me the correct answers or offer some consolation.
 
“I missed my airplane because of the system error of your company, but will you do nothing about it and just look on?” I tried to complain but the irritating answer I got was, “There is no problem with our system. Why didn’t you come earlier to be processed at the counter?” He went on to repeat his answer and on top of that criticized me soundly. (Perhaps this staff has NOT heard of the saying – the customer is always right?)
 
Feeling it would be pointless to pursue the matter any further and to prevent myself falling further into depression, I gave up, paid the surcharge of RM 160(Note: More money paid out) and so waited for the next flight.

After a while, someone who was Malaysian Chinese woman asked what I was complaining about. I explained what had happened to me and how I had to forgo my flight and now had to wait for the next one.  She answered she too had faced the same problem and like me, was also waiting for the next flight.

 It was really ridiculous that two passengers faced the same problem for the same flight and ended up being unable to solve it. It was not long before other similar stories of missed flights of AirAsia arose.

One of which was a passenger being refused to board the plane, even though he was late by just a minute or two, Worse, it happened in front of the boarding gate after check-in (Note: After check-in).

Airport staff should realize the long distance between waiting areas and boarding gates. To add insult to injury, announcements are not made and there are no ground staff to guide passengers to the boarding gate at the proper time.

One cannot imagine a legacy airline preventing a passenger from boarding for being late by only one to two minutes.
 
At this point, the Air Asia airline staff do not act as “adjutants for passengers” anymore. I think they seem more like “mischievous disrupters taking advantage of the blind spots of passengers”.
 
Passengers have to remember the high penalties they have to pay if they want a change of reservation or are subject to missed flights. If there are differences in fees when reservations were made and at the time of a reservation change, it is passengers who will have to pay the difference.

They can end up paying a heavy amount. Legacy airlines on the other hand, do not charge if the reservation change is made within the validity period.
 
 “We cannot refund even If passenger couldn’t board.” This kind of company policy is directly connected with the arrogant attitude of staff at the airport. As far as staffs at Air Asia counters are concerned, it is not their priority to make sure somehow passengers get on board, but think everything is alright if passengers cannot get aboard.

Is there some extracurricular income here? It would be connected with passengers who might be the ‘target of a commercial spirit’, therefore passengers had better disregard any earlier kindness shown by staff at counters. The fangs come out later!
 
I guess there is nothing more to discuss with them if their original system is dysfunctional. However, the bad experiences I underwent should act as a warning TO MANY OTHERS that one should be prepared for glitches to occur and for which the passenger will be solely blamed when flying AirAsia.

In particular, those on Group Tours, elderly people and sick patients should be wary. Experiencing an ‘inconvenience’ will be the least of their problems.

My recommendation, if possible, take a legacy airline!

abc@koreanpress.net


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