I recently booked an Air Asia flight/holiday. The email confirmation sent by Air Asia did not carry sufficient details. You know Air Asia imposes a variety of charges. Air Asia's marketing speak calls it 'consumer choice' – you pay only for what you want. I think there's a fine-line between consumer choice and price gouging which Air Asia has crossed, but that's a different story.
Anyway, I went to Air Asia' Terms and Conditions of Carriage to see if check-in luggage was also a 'consumer choice' item or already included in the fare.
That's when I came across this very unfair clause:
“6.1.3 Unavailability of Seat: There is a chance a seat may not be available for you on your flight even if your booking is confirmed. This is due to the common practice in the airline industry of overbooking. In the event of such unavailability of seat, we shall at our option, either:
* carry you at the earliest opportunity on another of our scheduled services on which space is available without additional charge and, where necessary, extend the validity of your booking; or
* should you choose to travel at another time, retain the value of your fare in a credit account for your future travel provided that you must re-book within three (3) months therefrom.”
Yes, overbooking is a common airline practice. But common airline practice, in the event that they do have to off-load passengers is to 1) ask for volunteers; 2) compensate the volunteers via cash payments and seat upgrades on the next available flight or3) even cash payments on top of full refunds of their airfares.
Air Asia's terms are extremely unfair. You, the customer who has already paid, will not get the flight you want. On top of that, you can't even get a refund! It's Air Asia's choice to put you on a later flight (too bad if it means the meeting you were going for would have already ended) or give you credit for another flight, which is valid for only 3 months! (too bad if you can't get leave again). No cash refund for you, even though it is Air Asia that is not delivering on its contractual obligation.
OK, some will say, if you hate it that much, then don't fly Air Asia. You have a choice not to fly Air Asia. But there are also grounds for government to step in here and legislate in the event businesses take undue advantage of small consumers. I remember an Unfair Contract Terms Act in the UK governing this. Any lawyers here to add more colour on this subject?