Sunday, February 1, 2009

Air Asia says: We'll take your money, even if we chuck you off the plane

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?


zewt said...

simbiosis - customers taking advantage of cheap fares while AA manipulates the customers.

Anonymous said...

Exactly zewt!! i think the terms and cons (no pun intened) are just fair considering the price you pay. But really based on what i read in news report a while ago, airasia does not practice overbooking. Overbooking happens when you work with many agents who will "book" seats in anticipation of sales but had to release them when there are no takers... explains why sometimes when you book on mas you'll be told that seats are full but when you board, plane is half empty!! It happened to me before... In airasia's case, they sell "no-show" seats - those who fail to check in 45 mins b4 flight dep. They really know how to make money by cutting both ways.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

I commend you for exposing the cheating ways of Air Asia .... and they credit themselves for enabling all to fly .... more leading the cows to slaughter!

Other web sites that seem bent on exposing this ??? are:

We need more analysts like you in blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I think you are wasting your time reading the fine print of these airlines. If you want to do this, then don't stop at Air Asia. Look at the fine print of banks' standard terms and conditions and comment on them.

Pls spend more time talking about more macro economic issues (which I believe is the platform given to you). Preying on petty issues such as these will get you no where politically.

Finally, for the budget price you pay Air Asia, what do you expect? Cut them some slack, please.

Chi-Chang said...

To Anonymous who suggests I stop preying on petty issues:

The sad state our of country today is due to too many politicians thinking only about political mileage and too few remembering that politics is also supposed to be about leadership. Good political leadership should be about educating and persuading citizens to help take the country to greater heights, not pandering to populist demands.

And I would suggest focus on the "petty stuff" is just as important as the big picture. Malaysia has had plenty of visions and grand plans, but all failed because of the implementation. No-one wants to sweat the details!

Agree that banks' terms are also exceptionally unfair, so are unit trust fees, the KLIA taxi monopoly ... lots of things in our country are unfair. But do we then say that we accept this unfairness because that's also unfair? Or do we start addressing these, piece by piece, step by step?

Anonymous said...

nothing to shout about this as they have stated in in the wbsite

Anonymous said...

There are few things which AA should reflect & improves on, for example:

Overbooking- AA should look into how to centralize their system. No matter where you book your tickets, the info should be updated immediately to be known to AA & their agents.

Compensation method - This is where the overbooking issue is unable to be fixed or system error. Consumers should be fully refunded as in this case they have ZERO control in ensuring no hiccups from AA side.
Allowing passengers to fly within 3 months is meaningless as leave might not be approved, or if you are travelling with loved ones, it might be impossible to co-ordinate the time away at future dates. Of course, not to say missing the important meeting (which can be the worst nightmare. Imagine the wrath of your clients and the embarrassment caused!).

I agree with the blogger that we should start looking into unjust clauses and try to work on them. This is what consumer rights is all about.

We should avoid comments like 'Miss your meeting? Who ask your company to use cheap flights' or 'Cut them some slack lah, already so cheap'.

Please remember there are small & medium companies expanding and they need to watch their budget. After all, wasn't it always AA slogan & vision, to allow everyone to fly?

For me, the cheap flight means cramped seats, no free meals, limited entertainment and no free baggage allowance. The rationale is I overlook the comfort factor to save money. It does not mean I pay less thus I deserve bad or no service, get ripped off or submit to unjust policies of budget air lines just because they can't get their system right. Or believe customer service/ compensation is not necessarily.

This concerns the INTEGRITY of the service provider, big or small. Nobody wants to deal with people who 'cheats' them!


Chi-Chang said...

Thanks Shayley. Very well-said. Yes, we accept less comfort when we pay less. But paying less does not mean
we "deserve bad or no service, get ripped off or submit to unjust policies of budget air lines"


Anonymous said...

Great post! Totally agreed, and these are some of the issues that will bring Air Asia unstuck in some way in their new markets like the UK and Australia. These kind of practices are not acceptable. Cheap is good, but a proper service doesnt cost much. They are creating a bad reputation for themselves.