AirAsia the Scam Airlines causing many stranded and no more refunds

Air Asia and Tony Fernandez : From public champion to money-grabbing witch
Air Asia is one of Malaysia’s great success stories.  From basically nothing except a few old planes serving a few domestic routes CEO Tony Fernandez has built it into the biggest budget airlines in Asia with routes spanning most of Asia and reaching into Australia, NZ and Europe.  He has done it without any help from the government unlike pampered bumiputra businessmen.
However, AirAsia’s success story has begun to falter amid charges of poor service, inflexibility, hidden charges, deceptive pricing and anti-consumer practices designed to squeeze the maximum from passengers.  Whenever there is a news item on AirAsia in malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider and other online sites readers’ comments are almost wholly negative towards the airlines.  It is unusual for a budget airlines which purports to provide affordable flying for passengers to end up on the wrong side of public opinion but AirAsia has certainly succeeded.
When did AirAsia descend from a public champion to a money grabbing witch?  To be sure this did not happen suddenly but has been ongoing for years.  The negative public perception against AirAsia has reached an alarming level and cannot help but affect the airlines’ business.  The suit by the Australian consumer watchdog ACCC did not help.
Copying Outdated Practices
AirAsia copies a lot from Western budget airlines like Virgin Airways but some of what it copies are outdated or culturally unsuitable for local customers.  It may seem clever to refuse to check in a passenger who arrives 1 minute later than the counter closing time so that he has to buy another ticket but Malaysians find this very infuriating especially when other airlines have been very flexible.  MAS will allow you to check in as long as you can make it to the boarding room before the plane flies.
Other practices which do not go down well with passengers are credit card charges, counter check-in charge and seat selection charge. The first two may be considered hidden charges as they are non-optional and should be added to the fare in the first place. Those who do not pay to select seats (currently at RM35 per passenger from KL) are randomly distributed so families will be split up. This is especially annoying as passengers are not charged for any real goods or services but for the right to sit together which should be theirs in the first place. It’s like taking something away which should be yours and demanding a fee to give it back.
But probably the most aggravating is AirAsia’s RM1.95 a minute charge to talk to a service staff. It may be for something which is not their fault like flight delays, claim of refund, lost luggage or being overcharged on their credit cards but having to pay by the minute to complain is really annoying. To add insult to injury they are frequently made to wait on hold while the charge keeps ticking.
Is AirAsia Really Cheap? –  Please READ on !!!!
Asia practices a sliding scale of pricing depending on when you book. Early birds get cheap prices which are probably below AirAsia’s cost while late comers will be charged more. Then there are the gimmicky promotion giveaway seats which have to be subsidized from somewhere and it’s not from Tony’s pockets. The upshot is that AirAsia is not always the cheapest and can be more expensive than regular airlines. As nobody will pay more than a regular airline for a budget airline AirAsia tries to hide its real pricing and make it difficult for customers to compare.
This pricing model of gouging Peter to subsidize Paul does not work anymore. Consumers are getting savvier with tight social networking and no longer assume that AirAsia is always the cheapest. They will buy when AirAsia’s prices are cheap and stay away when prices increase. There are still some ignorant ones who do not compare prices but depending on consumer ignorance is never a good business model. This is like BN depending on the rural Malays to be forever supportive through poor information.
During last year’s peak Christmas to New Year period AirAsia was flying between KL and Melbourne with emptyseats while all regular airlines were sold out. This is extremely unusual for a budget airline which should logically be the first to be sold out. Passengers have wised up to AirAsia’s pricing tricks.
Customers should also compare beyond the basic fare. Things like food, entertainment, comfort kit and baggage have to be priced in as well as other extraneous charges. Passengers also fly from the LCCT which is a pathetic excuse for an airport and they have to walk a long way to the plane as AirAsia will not pay for aerobridges. This makes AirAsia unsuitable for senior citizens. Then again AirAsia usually flies to remote airports which may cost more to get to the city.
There are also hidden costs. AirAsia is really only cheap if you book far ahead and pay upfront. It accepts bookings as far as one year ahead. This means your money is tied down and any change in schedule can be very painful as AirAsia will levy a heavy charge out of proportion to the ticket just to change a date. Some consumers will find that paying a little more for flexibility is not a waste of money.
Delays and Cancellations
Those who fly AirAsia know that delays and cancelled flights are far more common than other airlines. AirAsia has the dubious practice of combining flights if passenger loads are low without regards to disrupting their passengers’ schedules. The fine print on their tickets claims they have the right to do this. Only a country with weak consumer laws like Malaysia allows them to get away with it.
Those whose flights have been cancelled and are entitled to a refund find dealing with AirAsia an exercise in patience and perseverance. Contacting AirAsia staff is an arduous task in itself. Some customers say they are asked to wait 30 to 60 days to process their refunds and when the time is up AirAsia can come up with another excuse to reset the waiting time.
Long upfront payment, inflexibly, inconvenience, risk of delay and poor service means that customers will demand a big price gap from regular airlines to fly AirAsia. This means that eventually AirAsia will only be able to sell if their prices are very cheap and below cost. Passengers will look elsewhere when prices approach regular airlines.
A case in point is AirAsia’s cancellation of routes to London, Paris, New Delhi and Mumbai. These are popular routes to densely populated cities which any budget airline should be able to work successfully. AirAsia’s stated reasons like visa requirements and additional taxes do not make sense as they apply to all airlines and can be added to the fare. The real reason as reported in The Star is that AirAsia is losing millions on these routes every month. So why can’t AirAsia raise its prices? The reason it can’t is because passengers will flee to other airlines. They are demanding a price gap to fly AirAsia which the airline cannot provide and still remain profitable.
The Writing is on the Wall for AirAsia
AirAsia may have started on good terms with the public but the honeymoon period is over. Its service has fallen to abysmal level and it is treating its own customers with contempt. AirAsia is behaving as if it is operating amonopoly when no such monopoly exists.
Passengers have a choice of other airlines including budget ones like Jetstarwhich has been complimented for its transparent fixed pricing. Air Emirates is encroaching in on AirAsia’s lucrative KL-Melbourne route with very competitive prices. Hoping that its new KL-Sydney route will be as lucrative may not happen as SIA will soon launch a new budget airline called Scoot which will start with the Singapore-Sydney route.
AirAsia has obviously not come to terms with the power of social media. In the old days an enraged customer can do limited damage as he can only influence his immediate family and close friends. These days they can vent their rage in online forums, facebook and twitter and influence hundreds if not thousands.
Horror stories about AirAsia abounds online. Some say they find AirAsia staff so difficult to contact that they are forced to buy another ticket when they just want to change a departure date. One angry customer said hehas been waiting 2 years for a refund with serial excuses from AirAsia. One passenger was especially unfortunate. He reached the airport to find the check-in counter closed and the staff agreed with him that it was closed earlier than the stipulated time. She made a phone call but was not allowed to re-open the counter. As a result the passenger missed his flight and his connecting flight and to top it off Air Asia refused him a refund.
There seems to be a culture of unsavory practices to try to squeeze all they can from passengers even to the extent of forcing them to buy another ticket. Such corporate greed will drive customers away. My sister was asked to pay RM1000 to change the date of departure for a KL-Melbourne flight. She has declared that she will fly Air Emirates from now on.
Tony Fernandez should put his mega plane buying on hold and work like hell to improve AirAsia’s customer service and public perception. He should step out of his dream world that every year will be the best ever year for AirAsia. The writing is already on the wall and if AirAsia crashes it will be a pity as it can be said to be the only Malaysian global brand.
Malaysia Chronicle
Written by Kenny Gan

21 thoughts on “AirAsia the Scam Airlines causing many stranded and no more refunds

  1. I like the valuable information you supply to your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I am relatively sure I will be informed lots of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

    • Sounds like sour grapes to me.I have used airasia many times and have had no problems with any flights.When a flight was changed from clarke to kl i phoned the airline and it was changed for me at no charge.These articles if true make interesting reading but personally i think it sounds more like someone with a score to settle.

  2. Hi everyone, it’s my first pay a quick visit at this web page, and piece of writing is genuinely fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting these types of articles or reviews.

  3. agreed with the details of the scam about refunds, I booked and paid in December 2011 for 3 people flying Phuket – Christchurch return, and have had nothing but lies and broken promises regarding refund… I am seeking other people to explore a class action against these scammers, cheats and liars.

    • Dear Micheal,

      If you feel that we can be of help to assist you in your case, just give us a tinkle at any time and we’ll be glad to post your stories to the world for AirAsia’s actions. We do hope you would take up the legal suit case against AirAsia X for the cancellation of their flights. Cheers!


      • In December 2008, I traveled from Almaty to KL transiting in Bangkok. Normally, I took MAS from Bangkok to KL.Just because I wanted to save a few hundreds RM, I bought Air Asia ticket. I had to checkout out and checked in at Bangkok Airport and it was a hassle. On top of that the AA flight to KL was cancelled without informing me and I really wanted to go home. After filling the form for a refund, I purchased an Air Thai one way ticket to KL at a cost of RM1500.The actual cost of Bangkok – KL flight was almost RM1900.
        A few months after that my MBA student who was an AA staff told me that AA would never pay the refund unless we chased after them. Unfortunately I lost my refund receipt. In contrast, I cancelled my MAS flight Dubai-KL and I got my refund without any fuss.
        By right any cancelled ticket, AA should refund airport tax and insurance fee charged to the customer. What AA did is very unethical and against any law that protect consumers’ interest. I am glad that Australia Competition Authority charged AA for cheating customers. .

  4. I recently booked 4 tickets (including 2 kids – Air Asia do not provide special fare for kids unlike MH) from KL to Langkawi at RM608. I reached airport late by 5 minutes and asked to go by baggage security (have only laptop bag without laptop) even before I went near the Airlines boarding counters and asked to go around unnecessarily instead of going through a straight path. This took another 5 minutes and when reached counter they just go through my online ticket and kept on trying from their mobile phone and told boarding closed and pls check at another counter who can help. At the next counter he told I am 15 mins past before boarding closed and told I should take another flight. I was astonished at their lethargic reply when I pleaded that I entered around 40mins before boarding time close so can you consider it. He informed me very cool the next flight is one hour behind and pay 1230RM. I understood it is complete cheating with all the latest methods if you think it is legal (it may be). I am not interested to travel by another flight when my earlier booked seats sold to another 4 people who might bought it with high price and they are trying to squeeze more from me. I aksed them to refund and he informed only airport tax be refunded per person RM8. My family is waiting with all hopes flying to the island and imagine my situation. So beware!

    • why were you late?It is clearly stated “countercloses 1 hour before flights”too many people are like that and deserve to lose their seats.same with the idiots who cannot get into a seat and put their luggage in the rack and instead make people wait while they stand there blocking the isle.
      I have found airasia to be fine on the many flights i have had with them.Certainly they are cheap and when food, seat allocation-if you want that- and other costs are taken into account they still beat other airlines hands down Besides i flew from adelaide to launceston tasmania with jetstar and myself and my wife were charged $68 aud for using a credit card-outrageous.I have flown many times with other airlines as well and last time i flew with singapore airlines they were very poor.mas has always been good though.

  5. Asking questions are in fact good thing if you are not understanding something
    entirely, however this post offers fastidious understanding yet.


    • I hope that my previous comments will be posted but feel that this site may be very biased against airasia.I have no problems at all with airasia and have flown with them on many occasions.within asia and also to england and back and forth from australia

  6. We have had nothing but endless complaints about the budget air line air asia even complaining to the ceo Mr Tony Fernandez himself gets you nowhere now that should tell you what type of air line this is. We are not letting this slip by and we will be seeking and taking all avenues to make this airline reimburse us what we are due. Advise to future travellers think twice about this carrier as it may be cheap but the problems you have after are what cost you thousands.

  7. This article is a little outdated but still good for others to know. Scoot Airlines have already started but fly very few routes. In fact, the scam-like practices of AirAsia is even more now. I have these to share…..
    1) In the beginning, AirAsia do correspond via phone calls or e-mails. They cancelled one of my flight booking and all 4 of us lost a total of over RM2,000 due to no fault of ours. During the correspondance process, they change people and e-mail address several times and after one year, they told me they don’t have records of my booking anymore and that any seek for refund cannot be later than 6 months.
    2) Beware of their flight time change trick. Once they changed their flight time to more than 45 mins(I think now they change to 60 mins) delay so we decided to cancel our flights and opt for full refunds. Their staffs in Malaysia will not give you any acknowledgement in black and white. They will tell you it’s standard procedure and not to worry. So we canceled the trip plan. Few days later, they rescheduled their time again to be earlier and denied that I have ever seek for refund as there wasn’t any records on their side.
    3) Now they don’t even entertain you in person for any refunds. All refund-seeking process in Malaysia must be done via their e-form, of which you will have no prove that you have submitted it.
    4) In Malaysia, they have reduced the airport tax amount and increased the
    “admin or other fees” amount several times so that you will not get any airport tax refund for missed flights(after lessing out their processing fee).
    5) My worst experience was when a friend of mine whom I booked the tickets for him cannot make it for the trip when he was hospitalised due to old age sickness. Airasia told me I can get refunds for cancellations due to medical reasons but after going through all the problems of getting the medical documents, they keep changing their requests hoping that I will give up seeking the refund. When I finally met all their demand, they told me I shall not get a full refund but have to minus some “processing fee” charges. I have no choice but to accept since a dollar is still a dollar. Guess what ? They told me the money cannot be returned to my credit card which pay the tickets but can only be returned in a form of a credit shell that must belongs to the passenger concerned and he must have an Airasia account and e-mail address to process it. Huh !! The passenger is already dying in the hospital and if he had an e-mail address or Airasia account, he probably don’t need me to buy the tickets for him earlier.
    6) In another instance, which is quite similar to no. 5 above, a friend of mine purchased some tickets with his own AirAsia account but paid by my credit card. When he seek for refund due to flight cancellation, they told him the refund cannot go to him but to my credit card. See the irony ?
    I am sure they are other “tricks” they used that I am unaware.
    My advice to anyone is “be prepared to lose your money if you fly with Airasia and only if you can really get cheap tickets and worth your risk”.
    Recently(2013) I have seen their fares on offer are the same price for the same period, offered 3 times; and some of their AirAsiaX fare is in fact even cheaper during their 2nd and 3rd time offer.

  8. I can concur with the main article. I have flown with AirAsia over 25 times in the last 5 years, and will no longer be doing so. I booked 6 flights for myself and my friend 6 months in advance together with Tune AirAsia Insure, as I was under the impression the insurance will cover any cancellations. Due to unforeseen circumstances my friend had to cancel his part of the trip, but as I was the one who paid (as a birthday gift) from my credit card, it was up to me to try and recuperate the cost. I called AirAsia and Tune Insure many times (from Australia) and so often no answer. When there was an answer I keep being passed onto someone else. It’s like passing the buck, or going round in circles, too frustrating to deal with. The flights are coming up in three weeks’ time. I will try my luck in person at the service counter when I get to LCCT in two weeks, but I will not get my hopes up. It’s a total of AU$ 579 (RM 1700) which for me is a fair bit of dough. The insurance was meant to cover cancellation as per the print on the form, but over the phone they say it doesn’t, and on their website it states, that it only covers if one dies, or is too sick to travel, hence a detailed medical certificate is needed. After these flights, no more AirAsia for me, as it’s way too inconvenient to deal with, poor customer service, they sting you with all the hidden extras, which once added is not much cheaper than other airlines, so really not worth it. On one flight about 18 months ago I was 5 kg over as I honestly thought I had an allowance of 20 kg instead of 15 kg, and had to pay an extra of RM 500 for a flight from KL to Chiang Mai. It turned out to be a very expensive flight. If anyone out there can offer some advice re the cancellation/Tune Insure, I’d be more than happy to listen.

  9. I’m impressed, I have to say. Really rarely do I encounter a weblog that’s each educative and entertaining, and let me let you know, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Your concept is outstanding; the problem is something that not sufficient people are talking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something regarding this.

  10. My flight initinary – LCCT, Kul to Pnhom Penh, Cambodia.

    Departure time : 0645am
    Boarding time : 0625am

    We have checked in and walked half way out of the gate way. We have been requested to return to the departure hall, due to we are late for 5 minutes.

    After argue for an hours or so. I came out with few points that,

    1. Your crew had logged me in into your system and tear off my boarding pass for me to get on board. Print screen or something to proof that I am late or something. They can’t do that and said that my flight system is closed, it was wrongly key in.

    2. My partner and I, both is at departure hall wash room, yet we didn’t even heard last called on closing on board through loud speaker or something.

    This seems to be like a hoax and scam for me. They force us to purchase a brand new flight ticket. Even airasia counter is located in the airport, we are not allowed to reimburse on airport tax for our new ticket.

    We being informed by airasia crew- Kishan that it is standard of procedures for not announcing on gate opening and closing. Look through boarding pass mentioned time to get on board in future to prevent missed flight again.

    We bought a new ticket which flight time is at 3pm. My partner and I have been siting at departure hall with none stop passenger names being called and flight final call on closing from 1100am onwards. This is double standard or hoax from Air Asia?

  11. I may be one of the ‘fortunate’ to have experiance nearly all bad experiance the commenter here are facing. But i have never been treated in bad ways by the airlines. All travelar need to understand one thing, that flights are never 100% confirmed. There would a risk that it would cancelled changed etc. ESPECIALLY budget airline… Commenter do undersatnd there are a major different between full fare flight n budget airline… As a travellar it is our own responsibility to make sure you are not late to the airport, never late to the departure hall, always plan to have buffer time JUST IN CASE of any ‘Emergency’, always double check your ticket name, passport no, birth date and datetime before buying (it does pay to be diligent)..

    Also please do not buy the tune insurance, it doesn’t cover much. But the adage is you pay peanut you get peanut. A travellar that want to protect their travel should always buy travel insurance immediately after they paid for their tickets. But most won’t as they wanted to save money (tsk)… In my many flights unexpexted things do happen, and again it is our OWN responsibility to handle it. For example my future trip is to singapore, i mange to pay only rm56 for a return flight to jb instead of singapore as it is much cheaper that flying to singapore due to the tax incur. But recently my flight were cancelled but i receive email (do note there are reason why you need to provide correct email n checking your email frequently) that i was given option either to change the date n time or make a refund. And seriously it i just selected to change date n time n walla not much of a hassle. Also i also ever requested a refund, it did take 2 mths, but that is within the promise time the AA staff. I do not need to emaile everyday for the refund. Truthfully it only take 3 emails.

    I know this is a long comment but seriously guys if it is your fault why blame others….

    • Seriously? Dear Annie, the travellers are not a bunch of fools nor deserved any specially ill-treatment. The travellers are consumers who seek to improve in the aviation industry by providing the opportunity for AirAsia to prove The SNAKE can walk his talks. Unfortunately, these travellers were merely sharing their bad experience to the world and their grievances in being cheated of the branded “late checked-in” and “no refunded” or hassle in getting the refund. They merely express their thoughts widely…so please…Dear Anne, no offense to your loyalty with AirAsia as Staff Expressing Your Personal Point Of View”.

      We do know who you are and where you’re coming from…so again, please do not treat these travellers as if they were just born yesterday. We had a good laugh over your naivety in such tormented experience.

      Happy working for AirAsia the Con-Air. Perhaps you could help proposing to change AirAsia to CON-AIR?


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