I am writing to you to detail our recent experience. I am not sure why I am doing this as no one will care, but I do need to a) get it off my chest and b) hopefully warn others about Air Asia cheap fares (this is to try to catch searches)
Let me start by saying that I have flown from Australia to India and back with Air Asia 5 times. Each time has been a fantastic experience, even discounting the check-in chaos at Chennai airport.
We were booked to fly in February 2020 and then Coronavirus came along, visas were cancelled, flights were cancelled and travel shut down. During this time Air Asia came perilously close to going bankrupt and I was certain we had lost our money. Somehow the company managed to stay on its feet and the fares for cancelled flights were kind of returned as a Travel Voucher – keep in mind this is not a credit voucher. But we were genuinely grateful to have the value to spend again.
Jump to the end of 2022 and there is a grand announcement. Air Asia is flying out of the Gold Coast, Australia (OOL) again from February 16 2023. Fantastic! We decide we will take our trip leaving on February 27th, giving them a week to get the teething problems sorted.
We have a travel voucher, sweet, we will use that to pay and top it up with cash. When we go to pay with the voucher it can only be used for the base fare, not for taxes or add ons.
Hang on, when we paid, we paid for the base fare + taxes and now Air Asia is saying “you know the money you gave us for taxes? We are keeping that for ourselves”. Unethical? Absolutely. Thievery? I think so.
As far as I am concerned, a “travel voucher” should be the equivalent of cash. It is your money on hold with them, you should be able to spend it how you wish, with them.
Add to that, on one flight we couldn’t use the travel voucher at all. It isn’t like the flight was full, we could still pay for a ticket, but our money, which Air Asia already had, couldn’t be spent on this flight at all. Had we not already booked some tickets we would have stopped at this point.
AND THAT IS ANOTHER THING!
I am loathe to distract from the main issue here, but FFS, why can I book a flight from OOL – KUL and then book a flight leaving 4 hours later, KUL – CCU i.e. they connect, but I can’t book a single ticket OOL – KUL – CCU. I know why. Because that would be a convenience and a way to take care of customers, and Air Asia doesn’t care.
I won’t go into how hard I tried to get this travel voucher issue resolved, but it ended up being too difficult because replies never addressed my problem, which is likely what Air Asia management is hoping…people will just give up. After all, customers can’t speak to anyone to complain.
Then on January 12th, all flights in and out of OOL were abruptly cancelled “for operational reasons”. I suspect that Air Asia never got the paperwork completed and were told that there would be no flights.
Oh, Air Asia, do you know or care about how frustrating it is to not be able to actually speak to someone when there is a problem, especially when YOU caused the problem? In an era when there is so much interest in AI and chatGPT, your virtual assistant is worse than a joke, it is an insult to customers and it should be an embarrassment to even have it on your website.
Eventually…and I do mean eventually, because it took days, I figured out how to get to someone on live chat. They are all apologies but it is a hollow gesture as their only suggestion is for me to change the date of the flights to April. Not particularly helpful when I have already booked Indian trains which are expensive to cancel. Besides, when I look at flights in April they are phantom flights, that was back in January, in mid February, they still are.
So we bite the bullet and decide to fly out of Sydney. Not only is the new Air Asia flight more expensive, but we need to pay for an additional domestic flight to Sydney and go really early in the day because connections all fall apart. I am almost certain we have been overcharged for the ticket + the change, but of course, Air Asia doesn’t provide a list of transactions so that you can follow the money.
So, now we are flying from SYD – KUL and we reluctantly book OOL – SYD domestic, hang the expense. My India experiences has me understanding that this sort of disruption is something you have to learn to put up with.
The timeline of this post is as messy as the entire AirAsia booking system, but here is the next fun part.
Have a look at this image from the Air Asia website “my bookings” page…
How many flights are booked? Three, right? It is really clear.
When I went to check in, that is what I saw and what I thought. “SHIT! I never booked the final leg Kuala Lumpur to Sydney. How lucky I spotted this before we arrived back in KL with no flight.”.
So I booked a flight KUL – SYD, whew…disaster averted…but little did I know.
Somewhere through all this I made a mistake that I acknowledge. I booked this new flight for Wednesday 22nd instead of Tuesday 21st March. This meant an extra day in KL and missing the SYD – OOL flight which was booked on the 22nd at lunchtime.
Biting another bullet (I am worried about getting lead poisoning), I do an expensive flight change, moving it forward one day.
Now our bookings page looks like this…
that feels better…but little did I know.
We had meals booked on the first flight but they weren’t transferred to the new flight. Another piece of Air Asia magic that I can’t manage to get sorted out. I now simply can’t be bothered, we just want to go and have a great time without letting Air Asia spoil our trip any further.
[UPDATE] Eight days until we leave, the Tall Girl and I had been out celebrating our 4th anniversary together. Maybe it was the awesome Japanese food at Midori on the Gold Coast, maybe it was the saki, maybe it was love. But I woke up at 2AM and I prefer to do anything rather than lie there wondering why I am awake. I decided to check that we are checked in and in the app I spot this:
TWO FLIGHTS KUL – SYD ON THE 21ST! What the F’ing F????
Normally I would spell out the Fs but I don’t want anyone at Air Asia to care about that and say “we won’t deal with you using that language”. For sure it would be the only thing they care about.
Completely confused about what is going on, I manage to get a person on chat and try to explain my understanding of what is happening. We lock horns, if that is possible on chat, and they are absolutely unhelpful. There is no effort to try to help me untangle where and why the bookings look like they do and why I don’t understand it. Then they simply disconnect me without answering my question. Pretty typical for Air Asia.
Of course I am furious, it is 4AM by now and there is no way I am getting to sleep. I dig deeper into what has happened with this whole thing and why there are those 2 flights KUL – SYD and I discover something that I acknowledge is my mistake, but is absolutely Air Asia’s fault, triggered by them cancelling our flights in the first place.
Let’s jump back to that booking screenshot
It looks like a list of flights doesn’t it? It has the origin and the destination and the status. But it isn’t. It is literally, as the heading implies, a list of bookings. Not flights. In the top booking there are actually TWO flights, but there is nothing to indicate that. Why on earth doesn’t the list look like this?
I know why. That would actually be helpful for customers and Air Asia wouldn’t want that.
Unhelpful assistant did one thing right, they lodged an application for a refund, but I am not at all confident that it will happen or that it will be for the entire cost of the mistakenly bought ticket. At least I now understand it all…perhaps. [/update]
[ ANOTHER UPDATE] I have no doubt that some readers think I am a privileged 1st world whinger and that is partially true. I am part of the global 1% who can even afford to travel internationally. But for me, this mainly is about corporate responsibility and being treated fairly. It is about customer being more than just a thing that gives you money.
I am not at all surprised by the latest development in my refund request.
I am hardly surprised by the fact that the anonymous person who wrote this, couldn’t be bothered or didn’t think “oh, I have this booking number, let me check the customer’s account and find the other booking”. I am not sure if this is a ploy to fob me off for as long as possible or it is sheer incompetence…most likely, both. [/another update]
Here’s novel idea Air Asia, since I do a bit of coding, I know it is pretty easy to implement. As you are making a booking you are required to add your passport number. How about
WARNING! That passport number has already been used on this flight. But that would be helpful for customers, wouldn’t it.
When I read back this doesn’t read nearly as bad as it has been. It doesn’t reflect how much time I have spent on this. It doesn’t show how many times the live chat disconnected me. There is no indication of how many support tickets I opened and the response didn’t even come close to addressing my question but the ticket was closed and couldn’t be reopened. It certainly doesn’t show how the cost of what started as a relatively cheap holiday has blown out. Air Asia has made an art form of making life as difficult as possible for customers and making almost impossible to get in touch to resolve it.
Another example – someone more clever than me discovered the email pattern for Air Asia staff so I tried to email the CEO. There is such a person, but what a surprise, their email address is disabled.
I suspect that when they restructured after almost going bust, nothing has been the same since. They have likely trimmed as much staffing fat as they can get away with. They have lost any sense of being a service industry and are simply focussed on surviving.
But this is arse-backwards of course. Because I have gone from being a fairly loyal customer to likely never flying Air Asia again. I have gone from being supportive of their attempts to stay afloat to warning people to not use Air Asia.
This whole thing has, without doubt, been one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. I can’t even tell you how angry I am at Air Asia. In fact, the main reason for this post is to document just some of what has happened so that when we are at the airport I can possibly, finally, speak to the Australian Air Asia representative face to face and I can refer them here.
It may be a satisfying way to fill the time before an international flight. But the truth is, I know they won’t care.