Time wasted must be con­sid­ered

The Star Malaysia - - Views - LXYZ Subang Jaya

I’M writ­ing due to a re­cent har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ence I had with our national car­rier re­cently, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the last nor the first to go through it.

In Au­gust this year, I booked a flight about a month prior to my travel date from Kuching to Bangkok with a tran­sit in Kuala Lumpur. The book­ing process was a breeze and pay­ment was made promptly.

My night­mare started on the day I was due to travel. I was sup­posed to board a flight from Kuching to Kuala Lumpur at 1845 and ar­rive at 2020. I re­ceived a call at around 1500 by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the air­line who told me my flight would be de­layed to 2000 and I would ar­rive at 2140. My con­nect­ing flight to Bangkok was sup­posed to be at 2215. I was as­sured mul­ti­ple times over the phone that de­spite this de­lay, I would still be able to catch the con­nect­ing flight. So with that as­sur­ance, I did not give it much thought.

I ar­rived at the air­port an hour early and checked in my lug­gage. I was shocked when the at­ten­dant at the counter told me she could not check me on my flight to Bangkok from Kuching and ad­vised me to ap­proach the trans­fer counter upon ar­rival at KLIA. I boarded my flight and no­ti­fied the at­ten­dant on board that I needed as­sis­tance with my con­nect­ing flight. She asked why I had made such a book­ing, and I tried to ex­plain to her that my orig­i­nal flight was de­layed and it was not my fault. But she just couldn’t help in the end.

Upon land­ing at KLIA, I ran like a mad per­son to the con­nect­ing counter where I was de­nied board­ing as the flight was over­booked. I was given a ho­tel room and would be booked on the first flight to Bangkok in the morn­ing.

To my sur­prise, there were about 20 pas­sen­gers that night who were in the same sit­u­a­tion as me. I was not even of­fered an apol­ogy but was just whisked off to a ho­tel where the other pas­sen­gers and I had to wait for two hours be­fore we could get into our rooms. At that time, it was 2am and my “newly booked flight” was to be at 0805 and we were to be picked up at 0600 from the ho­tel, giv­ing us about four hours to sleep.

I did end up in Bangkok but with a day wasted. I can’t help to stress that dur­ing a va­ca­tion, time is of the essence and wast­ing a whole day re­ally puts a dent into your travel plans. Planned trips/ex­cur­sions have ei­ther to be can­celled or put on hold due to de­lays with air­lines.

Worse still, on the return leg, I ar­rived at KLIA and was sup­posed to catch a con­nect­ing flight to Kuching. To my sur­prise, the flight had been can­celled and I was put on an­other flight depart­ing four hours later.

Bot­tom line is, I feel that fly­ing is no longer as pres­ti­gious as it used to be, and that air­lines are ex­ploit­ing their pas­sen­gers just to make a quick buck. Empty flights are can­celled, re­sult­ing in in­con­ve­nience to pas­sen­gers. On the other hand, flights are over­booked to en­sure prof­its are made.

I looked up the Malaysian Avi­a­tion Com­mis­sion’s (Mav­com) pol­icy on de­nied board­ing/over­book­ing and found the guide­lines pro­vided ex­tremely vague and su­per­fi­cial.

I have taken my com­plaint to the air­line con­cerned but it has so far re­fused to com­pen­sate me for the flight from KLIA to Kuching. They stated that they have com­pen­sated me in form of the ho­tel and a new flight and that was ad­e­quate.

But what about the time wasted, the hol­i­day ar­range­ments that were made in ad­vance and had to be can­celled due to the de­layed flight?

The rights of air­line pas­sen­gers are poorly taken care of in Malaysia. I’m not sure if some air­lines are de­lib­er­ately can­celling or re­tim­ing flights at the last minute to cut costs, but I feel that as a trans­port com­pany, ef­fi­ciency and punc­tu­al­ity should be of the ut­most im­por­tance to serve pas­sen­gers.

I also feel that other forms of com­pen­sa­tion should be given for de­layed flights be­sides meals, phone calls, In­ter­net ac­cess, ac­com­mo­da­tion, trans­port or a re­fund. Air­lines should also take into ac­count the time lost or va­ca­tion plans that have to be resched­uled or can­celled. Proper guide­lines should be worked out es­pe­cially when it comes to de­lay, over­book­ing or flight can­cel­la­tion.

Take, for ex­am­ple, the reg­u­la­tions set by the United States: Pas­sen­gers who are de­nied board­ing in­vol­un­tar­ily are en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion that is based on the price of their ticket, the length of time they are de­layed in get­ting to their des­ti­na­tion be­cause of be­ing de­nied board­ing, and whether their flight is a do­mes­tic flight or an international flight leav­ing from the US.

Most bumped pas­sen­gers who ex­pe­ri­ence short de­lays be­fore board­ing an­other flight would re­ceive com­pen­sa­tion amount­ing to dou­ble the one-way price of the flight they were bumped from, up to US$675. Pas­sen­gers ex­pe­ri­enc­ing longer de­lays would re­ceive pay­ments of four times the one-way value of the flight they were bumped from, up to US$1,350. Air­lines are free to of­fer more money than re­quired to pas­sen­gers in­vol­un­tar­ily de­nied board­ing. I urge Mav­com to be more ded­i­cated in pro­tect­ing the rights of air­line pas­sen­gers. At the cur­rent state with fre­quent de­lays and can­cel­la­tions, for­eign­ers who travel with our lo­cal air­lines would def­i­nitely have a poor im­age on our coun­try. It is time to move away from the “Malaysian tim­ing and mind­set”.

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