Thursday, 11 October 2007

Once upon a time, I booked a flight with Air Asia

Without Prejudice

In my particular case -

A] Book multiple promo flights on Air Asia. Too good to be true!

B] Credit card 'declined' - Air Asia finally admits technical error.
C] Get right royally shafted, robbed in Air Asia's inimitable way.
D] Don't get angry, get even - and start warts & all Air Asia blog.
E] Air Asia send out mean hit-men to kill me [Nah, not really].
F] Retract E] Air Asia send stupid PR people to utterly annoy me.
G] Wish Air Asia had sent hit-man instead. Maybe they will.

Regrets! I've had a few, but then again too few to grumble. In Air Asia's case, I'll readily make an exception. Generally, I'm pretty easy going and unmoved by average service from outfits like Air Asia. You get what you pay for, yes? Well, in my case, apparently not. I would be floored if this story doesn't end up as a case study in communications and public relations text books way into the future.

In a nutshell, I was able to prove to Air Asia that I had booked half a dozen 1THB flights that were part of a promotion. Due to technical failure of Air Asia's online booking system, my credit card was repeatedly declined. In spite of offering proof of my 'purchases' immediately after, I was effectively told this was my tough luck. To add insult to injury, in spite of repeated requests to be issued an itinerary on regular flights I had booked at about the same time - is that too much to ask of even a cut-price carrier? - I was forced to abort my annual holiday because this was obviously beyond Air Asia. To their credit, air Asia did manage to send aforementioned itinerary AFTER the flight departed. To this day I have not received anything approaching adequate compensation for this misadventure.

Here's what went down. I was awake in the early hours of the morning as I booked an Air Asia flight to Cambodia from Bangkok. WHAM! - the new Air Asia 'Airbus' promotion came online. Get this! 1 THB [US$o.32] flights to virtually anywhere in Asia - and I was
probably the only person awake in Asia!!! Now, for those of you familiar with such promotions, you will know that the limited seats that are allocated get snapped up in minutes. I calculated that Singapore would be waking up in an hour.

Anyone who has
lived in Singapore has most certainly heard the phrase 'Kiasu' - this was not the time for my credit card to be declined - the ensuing feeding frenzy would make the Australia vs England rugby match look like a friendly. The only thing that might approach it for ugliness is the scenes you so often experience waiting to board an Air Asia flight.

As you'll see in the screen grab above, that's precisely what happened. A genuinely panicked call to the 24/7 Citibank helpline in Singapore made it clear that my card was not being declined by them. I asked them to confirm via email. Citibank's service is outstanding and a letter arrived minutes later.

I set about buying tickets to Lankawi, Hanoi, Singapore and Krabi. Each time my card was 'declined', I took another screen grab. I predicted that Air Asia would blame Citibank, so I was pleased to have the confirmation from the bank and the screen-grab software to make my case in the morning - Air Asia's 'helplines' being strictly 9-6. As I knew they would, Air Asia immediately tried to pass the buck.

Encountering Air Asia's 'Customer Support' team is the most bewildering experience I have ever had . It is bizarre what motivates people to start a blog. I am compelled to document the most appalling and laughable example of customer service I've ever encountered. I've got absolutely nowhere with Air Asia - actually things were going backwards from the start - hence the website.

I guarantee that you will become totally engrossed in this 'truth is stranger than fiction' account. I will include an entirely unedited script of the back and forth email thread between myself and half a dozen Air Asia staff - because you wouldn't believe it if you didn't see it with your own eyes. What transpires is truly Monty Python's Flying Circus, as I'm bounced between Bangkok and KL offices. I contacted Air Asia for a comment for my press release - as this will also form a magazine article - but I did not receive a response from their Marketing Director. They are welcome to add to this blog if they choose. It will certainly add to the hilarity.

In the coming days, you'll read about Air Asia's representative sending me a written confirmation that the guilt lay firmly at the airline's feet - apologising - yet I wasn't going to get any of the flights I had booked [This lady even invited me to book with Air Asia in future.]
You'll read how my idyllic romantic getaway to Singapore, Bintam and Krabi ended up in my canning the entire trip due to Air Asia's abysmal customer service - and you'll hear what 'compensation' was offered by Air Asia - which will leave you in stitches. After my being unceremoniously and unapologetically 'robbed' of half a dozen promotional flights, plus having to dump 10K THB odd worth of travel due to the fact that Air Asia was incapable of issuing a simple email itinerary - the 'fruit basket' style 'we're sorry' is just too funny.

A.Horribilis is (they know who I am), a brand strategist based in Singapore . I have never worked with Air Asia, otherwise I would be hanging my head in shame at their appalling PR. In my numerous polite attempts to have AA staff sort out this case, I was passed hand to hand - via 5-6 staff - and worse off in the end than at the beginning of the nightmare. As I've mentioned, feel free to add your own Air Asia account. Please provide your full name and contact telephone number for verification - plus include any supporting evidence by email The screen-caps shown are 100% legitimate and are in evidence at the bottom of the lengthy and ridiculous exchange of emails between Air Asia staff and myself on email. The 'declined' screen-cap was taken on Monday 24th September while purchasing said flights from Air Asia and taken to assist the airline in their investigations. A pointless exercise. Assuming you wish to cheat, wade through the email thread - but you'll miss the best parts of the story! Start at the bottom. Please take into account that I have actually 'lived' this; while I attempt to be polite at all times, I cannot apologise for my patience deteriorating to the point that I simply gave up reasonable negotiations. If you would like to attempt to book your next flight with Thai Air Asia, by all means go to

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Winging my own story over to you shortly, Capt'n. Excellent expose. But I think mine is better. C