Saturday, October 5, 2013

Problems with flying Air Asia

We all know that we fly Air Asia because it is sometimes cheaper than other airlines. No one really expects any luxury on board. That said, my bad experience in my latest flight made me think hard on the other problems with flying Air Asia. Here's the deal: 1. Very basic meals: The meals on board are very basic and served with 100 ML of water and plastic cutlery. There is no guarantee that even a pre-booked meal will be served, particularly if the flight and the meal are booked well in advance because the menu changes frequently at the convenience of the airline. No alcohol is served (at least on Thai Air Asia). Vegetarian choice is very limited. The Vegetarian Fried Rice served on Thai Air Asia is very oily and tastes bad. 2. Missing essential comforts: There is no in-flight entertainment whatsoever. No pillows to support your lower back or to catch a nap. No blankets. They do sell a comfort kit that includes a very small and thin rag like fleece thing called a blanket, a neck pillow and eye shades. Not worth the price. The seats recline very little and have no lower back support. Unless you pay extra at the time of booking, usually a middle seat is assigned by the system. Web check-in or kiosk check-in does not let you choose a seat. Once I found the first row seats empty and asked a stewardess if I could sit there. She asked me to pay 300 THB for the privilege saying those were "hot seats". (Read much more below)

Air Asia in-flight meal

3. Flights cancelled / rescheduled / merged without remorse

Without any regard to the fact that the customer might have stayed up late at night to book and pay for a "cheap" flight one year in advance, the airline cancels / merges / reschedules its flights at will. Recently Air Asia cancelled its Delhi - Bangkok service effective March 22, 2012. Flights prior to this date were merged on certain days. They don't care if they have already sold flight tickets on this route up to December 2012. Refunds are promised within 30 working days after request. No compensation for leaving the passengers high and dry. I booked Air Asia flights on Delhi-Bangkok and Bangkok-Macau route. Now they offer me refunds for Delhi-Bangkok but not for the Bangkok-Macau tickets. How do I explain to them that I can't use Bangkok-Macau tickets if they don't fly me to Bangkok first. If I cancel Bangkok-Macau, I only get a website credit to be used within 90 days of credit.

4. Passengers cannot cancel tickets

Once you buy a ticket, you can't cancel. No refunds of fare. Airport taxes are refunded after deducting cancellation charges, that too, after the flight date. That means, you have to make it a "no show" and then apply for a refund through their website. Refund arrives in about a month's time.

5. Extra charges for everything

Air Asia charges extra for seat allocation, checked baggage, online credit card payment, etc., and till recently even for counter check-in. Once you have paid any charges for anything, they are non-refundable. Period.

6. No transit benefits

I travelled on Air Asia from Macau to Bangkok in the afternoon carrying only hand baggage. No checked baggage. I had an evening Air Asia flight on the same day from Bangkok to Delhi from the same airport. On arrival at Bangkok, I was told that in order to get a boarding pass on Air Asia, I would have to go through immigration. That meant a Visa on Arrival fee of 1000 THB. I asked what if I do a web check-in and carry a printed boarding pass? The staff at "Visa on Arrival" counter told me that Air Asia, being a point to point airline, was not allowed to take transit passengers. There is no Air Asia counter or staff in the transit area of the airport.

7. Sub-standard arrival / departure experience

On arrival/departure at Bangkok's Suvarnabhoomi Airport, Air Asia does not use aero bridges. Passengers are loaded on to a bus up to its maximum capacity and driven to arrival gate / aircraft.

8. Air Asia cabin crew projected as sex objects

Air Asia in-flight magazine advertisement projecting cabin crew as sex objects

I have seen a blog about Air Asia treating its cabin crew as "sex objects". In March 2012, I saw the above advertisement in their in-flight magazine. See the top right corner - "Ask any of the friendly / good looking / hot flight attendants about it, consider it an ice breaker if you will".  So the allegation is true. Well, at least the crew member who served me the wrong meal was either "Good Looking or Hot", but certainly not "Friendly". I couldn't break any ice though. (Read details in "Poor in-flight service" below)

9. Poor In-flight Service

Airasia stewardess who lies to passengers

I recently flew Air Asia FD 3796 Bangkok - Delhi. The stewardess in the above picture managed to make it my worst Air Asia flight yet. I have so far been on at least 6 Air Asia flights and have been overall happy with my experience. But on this flight this lady served me the wrong meal and then told me that I did not know what I had booked online.
Air Asia Vegetarian Rice Combo

I had pre-booked on Air Asia website a Vegetarian Rice Combo as shown in the above picture. The meal is supposed to include peas pulao and a vegetable curry. Its an Indian meal. What I was served instead in this flight was a Vegetarian Fried Rice - Chinese style fried rice with corn, carrots and mushrooms in it but no curry. I pointed out the difference and was told by her that Vegetarian Rice Combo meant Vegetarian Fried Rice and Water! Then the good lady went on to say that if I had a problem I should complain to the website. I did lodge an online complaint with Air Asia. Case Number CAS-1817995-B42BQH CRM:0001978 dated March 14, 2012. Air Asia promised to respond within 5 working days but responded on April 4, 2012 as under:

"Regards to your complaint, please accept our apologies for the inconvenience caused. While the lack of service you experienced in unusual and not the standard of our service, there is no excuse for such service that our staff treated to you. The case is a serious issue, please be assured that we have definitely addressed this to our concern(ed) department to take relevant measures for improvement. We are terribly sorry about that and we assure your that this matter will not happen again in the future."

Posted by Narinder Singh

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  1. Dear Blogger....I understand being an low fare airline you cant expect such things...I wonder if you have travelled Indigo delhi - bangkok, The most pathetic and worst flight ever. After travelling from indigo , You would surely say air asia was better

    1. Dear Sandeep,

      I agree that low cost carriers will have service issues. But the least I expect is that they should be "low cost". This blog here says AirAsia is not even low cost:

  2. Hello,
    We are using airasia from bkk to sin.
    What is the advantage to internet check -in, do you avoid the Q's, and can you luggage upsize after webcheck in??

    1. Web check in may save some time during check in at the airport as you will go to baggage drop counter which may have a shorter queue. Though you cannot choose your seat by doing web check in. The seat will be allocated already by airasia. Web check in only means printing your boarding pass. About upsizing luggage after web check in, it may be possible. But I suggest you do it before doing web check in.

  3. Hi my views as below --

    1,2,4,5,7 are expected and is the raisone d' etre of low cost airlines. They offer lower prices by allowing you to choose rather than charge upfront. Your expectation is unreasonable as you can't have the low price and expect to get treated like a full service airline. Its how low cost airlines stay profitable.
    Steel cutlery has additional expenses of cleaning and handling, low cost airlines cannot afford to risk lost seats due to cancellation, and aero bridge services cost more to the airline. BTW every low cost airline charges for seats -- I actually find this a convenience, knowing that my seat is reserved.

    3- Your angst is justified and a good airline should schedule better and take ownership of connecting flights on the same carrier. refunds should be prompt...I have not experienced a cancellation with Tiger till date (8 flights)

    6- This should be at least declared clearly to passengers booking their flights on this leg. Not declaring clearly is unacceptable. You should sue them for deficiency of service for the 1000 THB

    8- This is shocking and I agree with you. I found the in-flight magazine yesterday say -- "When trailing to KL, say la to the pretty air hostess who has caught your eye and see her smile" -- Seriously!! You need to say la for her to smile? I thought the smile was included as part of the fees. Speaks volumes on the brand degradation to cheap thrills.

    9- Not acceptable in any service industry it hotels, banks or airlines.

    Let me know your thoughts.

Blog by: Narinder Singh