Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why I Hate Air Asia...

And mind you, i am an advocate for low prices. I think all airlines should be cheaper than it was before (indeed, my wish came true...) and i still think Air Asia is better than Tiger Airways in many ways (which should have been long defunct). But there are numerous reasons why i hate this red airline and why they are really, really pushing me into becoming an EX-AIR ASIA passenger.

Dear Tony,

I was on AK704 flight bound for Kuala Lumpur. You see, whenever i travel on Air Asia, the flight is almost always delayed. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30... whatever the schedule, wherever the destination, there will always be delays. And not that i am unfazed of that fact but i suppose i am a little more tolerant of such circumstance. Yes, sometimes its the weather conditions, sometimes its just air traffic. But i've been on so many carriers before, both budget and full-service. The award still goes to you. Oh... and to Garuda too. You guys are almost at par in terms of scheduling.

In this instance, AK704 was 45 minutes off scheduled. We only took off close to 3pm.

For some reason, i have forgotten to take my pen with me when i left the office for KL that day. Oh! I'd usually have it with me. You know, when on business, you never know when you'll need one. So i am quite helpless without a pen. I will usually have no problem asking for one from one of those Batik-clad ladies on one of those conventional airlines. They'll usually pass it to me for use (which i return to them promptly after use of course!) within 5 - 10 minutes. Very efficient.

On board AK704, I asked for a simple humble pen that i can use to fill up my immigration and health declaration forms. Sure, you can argue that i can fill it up at the terminal upon arriving. But the flight had been delayed and you know how notorious KL airports are when it comes to immigration. You can be queueing for quite a long time before you finally get your turn. So i'm just trying to cut the hassle really.

And so i asked young girl in red skirt if i could borrow a pen, any pen. Girl looked at me, top to toe, disinterested and said, "Let me check first...".

So we took off and all was jolly good. The take-off was smooth, everyone happy. But i still didn't get my pen. So i waited. I waited and waited and was listening to my songs playing in my iPod. Time did pass and though i was painfully aware that for a pen, this was taking way too long, i didn't want to make a big fuss out of it. Creating a ruckus is just not my style.

25 minutes... 30 minutes... And i turned behind to see if little miss red skirt lost her way to my place for that pen. But sadly no, Miss Hostess in red short mini skirt was talking and laughing to her other short-skirted colleagues. So i waited for her conversation to finish, a good 5 minutes later, as we were descending, she aimlessly walked down the aisle, just to make sure that everything was in order.

So i said excuse me, what happened to the pen? With an attitude (i stress this), she said, "Gave the pen to other passengers already, that's why...".

You see, now its no longer the pen that mattered. It was her attitude. Absolutely priceless. I was gnawing my cheeks out because i was so angry.

You gave the pen to others. Sure. Its not your responsibility to lend me a pen. Sure. I'm flying on Air Asia and paid less than what others will pay for for the same route on other airlines. Sure. But what could she have done? Simply walk up to me and say sorry, we have no more pens available for your use. And i would've understand. I am not that petty honestly. Yes sometimes i can get carried away with pettiness but i am usually quite civil.

Yes i am angry. Yes i am fuming mad. But you know what Tony, i tell myself, its not worth it. Because Air Asia is Cheap. Cheap airlines buys Cheap 2nd hand fleets. Cheap airlines pay girls Cheap salaries. And hence, we get Cheap attitudes and services. So they can't help it. Its a pity really... But you know what they say, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys :)

Oh then i heard the announcement made on the intercom. I can't help but snort when the stewardess had the audacity to say, "Air Asia was voted World's Best Low-Cost Airline in 2009 by 15 mil people around the world. Thank you for making our dream possible."

By 15 million who? Stakeholders? World's Best is at best, a joke.

You know Tony, there is a reason why some commuters prefer conventional full service airlines over budget "no-frills" ones. Honestly, we get what we paid for. We don't have to pay for everything. Everything is all included. Baggage allowance, service... Not so much on the food or drinks or cheap wines. Its the service. On Air Asia? Sure you get what you paid for. Then again, you pay for everything. Well, not unless you don't need to eat, drink or carry a luggage. Then its the perfect airline for you :)

A fellow traveller to Melbourne once asked TTT which airline we took to fly to Melbourne. And so we said we took Air Asia X - when they were giving away supposedly "free tickets" but ended up charging us for more S$750 each. The traveller was shocked, naturally (we did too...) and said that she only paid S$421 for a full service flight on Emirates. Our jaw almost dropped to the floor. And she added, "No point la flying on Air Asia... they make you pay for everything. And in the end, when you calculate, it's the same like flying on conventional airlines. Might as well fly on big planes complete with meals, 30kg baggage allowance and larger seats..."

So Tony, here's a suggestion:

Rather than hiring hostesses (who are probably MAS rejects anyway) to sell commodities to passengers, you might as well have a vending machine that dispenses drinks (both chilled and hot), snacks and hot meals onboard. That way, you'll be truly budget and don't need to pay for so many of your useless crews (who does very little anyway) - if they're not pushing for a snack on the wheel-cart, they're counting change or chit chatting. But that's a given... after all, they're Air Asia's hostesses :)

Oh, and while you're at it, you might as well charge for each toilet use. Or make commuters pre-order access to the toilet online. And for those who didn't, you'll get a chance to charge them double onboard! Good idea? I think it might just work ;)

Dear Dato' Tony Fernandez,

I asked for a pen. Do i have to pay for this too?

An Ex-Air Asia passenger

SIDEBAR: Try googling "love, hate Air Asia" and you'll get a good mix of reactions. But the common ground is, you either love it or you simply hate it. I've never been a strong lover or hater for anything... i'd work perfectly as a Diplomat. But you know, they really have pushed me to the other end of the spectrum. And even though i can foresee that i can't break-away from travelling on Air Asia for business (because of the economic crunch, they took away my Krisflyer flying privilege...), i am definitely converted - from "lover of cheap airfares" to "hate that cheap red airline who compromised service and time".

Some will say, well Cubbies, too bad for you...

I'll say! Yep, just too bad really...

PS: Just to test Air Asia's staff concern of safety on board the planes, i purposely didn't put on my seat belt as we were landing and placed my big huge Crumpler bag on the seat next to me. The hostesses pass by me 3 times when getting ready to land. Nothing. I was still safe thankfully but hey, remember Cheap Everything? Even safety it seems! ;)

So do fly with a consistent airline - Cheap flights, Cheap service, Cheap everything!



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