AirAsia Might Care – It Remains to Be Seen

So @AskAirAsia eventually replied to virtually all my tweets from yesterday with what might as well be bad AI robot replies (or a really bored person copy-&-pasting).

Except for one, which appeared slightly less robotic. It asks to write them via their online feedback form.

You mean somebody actually wants to hear? Well, maybe. Let’s find out.

Today, 25 December (go ahead, call me sad), I submitted this via their e-form. Will anything come from it? I have to say I’m not holding my breath.

So here it is, more for historic record than anything else.

Dear AirAsia,

I’m not sure if there is anything to do about this or who is to blame besides myself, but perhaps I share with you anyway, for the sake of us both learning something.

I have flown with you guys many, many times during the last 13 on-and-off years that I’ve lived in Malaysia, and I have never, ever missed a flight or had an experience like this one…

In summary –
– I missed my flight and believe it wasn’t entirely my fault;
– Your staff could not have cared less;
– I’ve always thought, with AirAsia, you get maybe a little bit more than you pay for, but now think quite differently and, in fact, feel very much like a very unimportant, very insignificant few RM in AirAsia’s huge bank account.

Here’s my sad story if you’re interested – probably best read while sad violin music plays in the background:

On Sunday 23 December I arrived at KLIA LCCT at 11:40 for my 13:20 flight (AK5114) back to KK after a weekend in KL – I proceeded to scan the barcode to get my boarding pass for my already checked-in flight. The boarding pass had no departure gate on it.

I went to Starbucks for a coffee, then went through security and was in the departure lounge. Unsure of where my flight would depart from, I checked the screens in the front of the hall, next to the doors, to look for my flight to Kota Kinabalu, but did not see it on any of the screens.

I walked to the far right of the departure lounge where I’ve taken flights to BKI from many times before, and saw – or at least I thought I did – in the far corner the flight number. There was glare from the sun behind behind the screen, but I could clearly make out at least the 114 part of the flight number. This together with it being the previous location for BKI flights, made me think I was in the right place.

I bought something to eat from the Deli France stand and stood at the charging counter on the back wall, charging my phone. I heard AK 5112 being called repeated, but no other calls pertaining to my flight number or my name.

When finally the gate I was looking at got called, people stood up, but sat down again, because it was delayed, I heard announced over the PA. Some minutes later the people got up. I joined the line. Only when I got closer to the screen displaying the flight number did I realise it was 6114 to and not 5114.

By that time it was well after my flight’s original departure time. I walked back to the left of the hall to find a staff, which I did, near gate P3. She was very unhelpful and also defensive, even after just my first question – she scribbled a desk number on my boarding pass and said they were the only people who could help me, before flicking it back to me and turning around to walk away, regardless of whether the conversation was finished or not.

Well, needless to say “help” was not what was on offer at desk R65. I appreciate the types of people you must encounter in this line of work, especially when something goes wrong – but none of your staff was even mildly interested in why or how I missed my flight. To be fair, the lady that took my money and booked my new flight at least looked like she pitied me, but her inability to offer only 1 avenue was disheartening none the less.

I discovered later that she had assigned me an emergency exit seat. Whether she had a choice or not I don’t know, but it was greatly appreciated.

RM515 later I was left with 24 hours to wait for the next available flight as I was told there were no availability and no such thing as a waiting list. I had my boarding pass, which again had no gate number on it.

I spent 24 relatively interesting hours at the LCCT – please do look it up under hashtag #24LCCTHRS on Twitter.

When check-in desks again opened, I think it was 5 hours before my flight, I went back to that desk to ask for my boarding gate. 3 hours before the time I went back again, they still couldn’t tell me and said the system had not been updated.

At 2 hours before flight departure I queued in front of that damn gate again, and one of your “customer service reps” approached me to offer me help. When he saw the time of my flight and the absence of a gate number, even he looked panicked and quickly brought me to another desk to find out what the number is. Aha! I thought, somebody with power.

Alas, not even they could tell us. I asked the rep what I should do. He said, come back here at 2. Less than an hour before my flight, he wanted me to come back.

I couldn’t accept it and became quite panicked, because if I missed my flight again, who knew when I would be able to get home. Instead of trying to help me beyond the tiny little confines of where he was standing, he told me there is nothing else he can do and if it’s not in the system.

That was one thing, but he seriously made AirAsia’s reputation fall in my eyes, when without actually addressing my panic – and with a I-don’t-have-to-deal-with-this attitude, turned around and walked away.

If I wasn’t so shocked, I would have been really angry. What kind of customer service is this? And is he trained this way, or is this just his personal interpretation of how to deal with a panicked customer?

In desperation I repeatedly tweeted AirAsia and AskAirAsia, foolishly thinking I would get a quick reply. If I knew they either don’t reply at all or take 24 hours to reply with useless information, I wouldn’t have bothered.

In the end I went through security again and decided I would trawl along all the gates until I found which one it was. I started at P3 where 3 of your staff were huddled behind the desk. They told me the gate was in fact P3. I still wasn’t 100% convinced, but figured I would check again 1 hour before departure.

When I sat down, it happened to be beneath the Departure Info Screens, which I haven’t noticed before, and on there it also said P3.

I wondered why the system that feeds this screen knew what gate, but the people outside didn’t.

In the end I got on my flight and made it home safely, but needless to say the whole experience has left me less than impressed with AirAsia.

I understand that because you’re practically a monopoly in your market segment, who deals with millions of passengers every year and more-than-likely looks at complaints as percentages, my annoyingly long message probably doesn’t even warrant a reply.

But after this experience, if there was ever to be any competition, AirAsia wouldn’t be my first choice. It would be a pity if you made more customers feel this way.

Sincerely

So there you have it. Hope you’re Christmas is a merry one.

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