Friday, December 26, 2008

Don't fly Air Asia

Because you probably won't be able to. During our trip to Thailand, we had a return trip booked from Bangkok to Phuket. We booked this back in July and the flights were in December. All was seemingly well. Our flight bookings were confirmed and ready to go. Then the fun began.
About a week before the first flight, whilst in Spain, I received an SMS informing me that our flight to Phuket was canceled. There was a phone number to call included in the message, but that number was wrong, and looked like it was typed by a dyslexic. The number in the SMS was 66 2 151 9999 when in fact it is 66 2 515 9999. So after calling the correct number, being put on hold for over half an hour on an international roaming call was not fun, after which I gave up. So off to the website that has a contact section. Ok fine, so I sent a message describing the situation. Next day, no answer. Another message, no answer. Once again, no answer. Meanwhile the flight date is getting closer and options are getting narrower. With no answer from the uncontactable airline we were forced to change the flight manually using the airline's website, being sluggend a fee for doing so.
After arriving in Bangkok, we proceeded to the AirAsia counter. There we found out that if a flight is cancelled then the airline is obliged to move you to another available flight at no cost. As we have paid for the flight transfer, we were refunded the money which was not immediate and was going to take upto a month. Ok, whatever, so we caught our late flight. At least the return flight was not cancelled. Or so we thought.
After spending a great week in Phuket, we were due to catch a 9:05am flight to Bangkok. We woke up extra early and arrived at the airport with some time to spare. Arriving at the airport desk however, revealed that the flight was cancelled. The AirAsia office wasn't even open at that time of the morning. With a bunch of discruntled guests waiting, as soon as the office opened the staff scrambled to restore order. Their competency was terrible, having to double check that our flight was cancelled. So the next flight was at 12:05pm, leaving us at the airport for another 4 hours without without prior notice. This time we resisted and asked for a flight refund, indicating no confidence in that the next flight was not going to be cancelled without notice. As we had another refund being processed from the previous flight, their policy was that no documentation could be provided indicating the refund. The refund was going to be placed in a 'queue'. I had to struggle to get something in writing to this effect. All I could get was the clerk's name on a piece of paper. We ended up flying Thai Air within half an hour for not much more at all.
Our assumption for this cancellation bonanza is that AirAsia has a lot of available flights. Sometimes when not enough people book to go on these flights, they just go ahead and cancel them and move the unfortunate guests to the other flights. This is not a way to conduct business. Advertising the fact that AirAsia has so many flights is misleading, and leaves their customers with a bad taste in their mouth. In fact those customers who are affected by this dodgy practice are less likely to fly AirAsia again, if ever. I know I'll never use them again.

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