l‘Tis the season to be jolly, are you ready for your next adventure? Since it’s a holiday season, I think it’s good to share a dispute memorable experience that I had with an international airline last year. How a simple mistake from the airline, combined with an inexperienced traveller and heartless customer service created a drama. And the most important thing, to know who you can turn to when a problem with airlines arises.
Back in 2017, my passion for travel started to kick in so I booked a holiday package to The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. It’s an 18 days trip, I was so excited because I never dreamt of visiting those places. When the embassies granted my tourist visas, I was over the moon.
It’s all started with a confusing airport name in the travel itinerary. I booked a return flight with Swiss International Air Lines from a third-party to get the best deals. The flight was a combination of Singapore Airlines and Swiss International Air Lines, with two transits in Singapore and Zurich. For the departure flight from Malaysia, the itinerary shows Kuala Lumpur (KUL) with additional info about the airport name: Subang Kuala Lumpur Intl.
I was confused whether I should go to KLIA or Subang airport. I thought the first transit was in Singapore and in Subang airport there were many airlines flying to Singapore, so I went to Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang. When I reached there and realised it’s a mistake, I rushed to KLIA and prayed hard that I wouldn’t be late for the check-in.
Of course, I didn’t make it in time. I was fifteen minutes late for the check-in and the Singapore Airlines officers didn’t let me do it even after I explained to them that there’s a mistake with the travel itinerary. They said they couldn’t help because Singapore Airlines had no connection with Swiss International Air Lines.
However, the lady officer was kind enough to lend me her phone to call Swiss International Air Lines. It’s very difficult to reach them and when someone finally picked up the phone, the customer service representation told me there’s nothing they could do and I had to buy a new flight ticket.
I asked if they could give me a discount on the new flight ticket since it’s not entirely my fault that I was late for the check-in, but they said they couldn’t do it. I asked if they could give me any form of compensation, they said no. I was so sad and angry, I felt cheated.
And the most important thing, to know who you can turn to when problem with airlines arises.
As you know, the price of a last-minute flight ticket is so expensive, especially from Malaysia to Europe. Plus, I didn’t get any compensation from the mistake that they made! In the end, I sent a complain email to Swiss International Air Lines and flew from Malaysia with a different airline.
I tried to keep positive – even though I lost a few thousand ringgit, at least I could make it for the trip. Alas, the drama didn’t end there. A few days later, Swiss International Air Lines finally replied to my email and said my return flight was cancelled because I didn’t board the departure flight.
WHAT . THE . FUDGE
So, I lost my initial return flight ticket, bought a new departure ticket and had to buy a new return ticket to Kuala Lumpur. The total cost me around RM9,000!
It was so heart-breaking and the whole trip, my dream trip that’s supposed to be fun, was filled with resentment. My new friends and the tour leader tried to console me. I was extremely upset because I worked my a$$ off for one year, 7 days a week, to realise the trip.
Then one of my new friends gave me a very good advice. He asked me to report the case to a consumer protection agency in Malaysia. At that time, I didn’t know such agency exists! After I did some research, I found out that there’s a consumer protection agency for aviation matter in Malaysia.
Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) is a young organisation established on 1 March 2016 under the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act 2015 as an independent entity to regulate economic and commercial matters related to civil aviation in Malaysia.
In other words, MAVCOM will help consumers to resolve disputes with airlines or airports. If you fly from or to Malaysia and feel your problem isn’t solved by the airline or airport, you can make a report to MAVCOM.
Some airlines complaints that MAVCOM handles are customer service, denied boarding, facilities/in-flight services, flight cancellation/delays, mishandled baggage, refunds, online booking, and upgrading/downgrading. Meanwhile, it also solves airport complaints like facilities and customer service.
After I returned to Malaysia, I sent an email to MAVCOM and attached all the proof – receipt of all my flight tickets, the travel itinerary and email conversation between me and Swiss International Air Lines.
To this day, I admit that it was part of my mistake that I didn’t check which airport Singapore Airlines flies from. However, I can’t accept such customer service response for not taking any responsibility of the company’s mistake.
MAVCOM will help consumer to resolve disputes with airlines or airports
First, when I made the call to inform that I missed the check-in period because I went to the wrong airport (which was pointed in their travel itinerary), the customer service representative didn’t tell me that the incident would result to cancellation of my return flight. They informed that to me via email, a few days later. If I knew it earlier, I’d buy new return flight tickets, not just new departure ticket.
Second, I didn’t get any compensation although it’s part of the airline’s mistake. Third, I didn’t get any apology from them. The whole email conversation was about blaming me and they didn’t even apologise for not stating a precise airport name in the travel itinerary.
Fourth, I can’t accept such ‘hospitality’. What’s the purpose of the customer service department when they can’t help to solve a problem or reach an agreement with a disappointed customer? Sometimes, there would be a unique case like mine. They couldn’t simply categorise it under “failure to board departure flight results in cancellation of all flights purchased”.
I explained all of those above in my email to MAVCOM.
In less than two weeks, I received an email from Swiss International Air Lines that they have reconsidered my case and agreed to pay the money that I spent on the new departure and return flight tickets.
YAAAY! THANK YOU, MAVCOM!!!
Thank you too, Swiss International Air Lines for finally paying me back. The company restored my confidence to use its service again for my Spain 2018 trip. For my fellow travellers, it’s good to know your rights as consumers. I hope you have a fantastic holiday!