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Opinion

Wednesday, 15 November 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Time wasted must be considered

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”.

LXYZ

Subang Jaya