Do not fly Air Asia ever!

Warning Sign

Today’s report on the causes of the crash of flight QZ8501 last December in which 162 people died clinches this decision for me (see The Guardian article A cracked solder joint malfunctioned four times during the flight and 23 times in the previous year. The flight crew disengaged the autopilot and then could not rectify the fault or cope with the stall the aircraft went into. The weather had nothing to do with the crash.

Even before I read this, I had decided not to fly Air Asia ever again. We were booked on a flight from KL to Lombok on 7 November. We were finishing our packing prior to the two-hour drive to KLIA2, when we got a text message saying the flight was cancelled due to volcanic ash. I immediately phoned our hotel on Lombok to let them know and the hotel owner said the airport was open – he knew this because he had just returned after seeing his wife off on a Singapore Airlines flight.

You cannot phone Air Asia. The only forms of communication are an e-form (I have sent numerous emails this way and have never received a response) and Live Chat (which almost always comes up with the message “We are experiencing a high volume of chats. Please try again later. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.”) No surprise either that the insurance Air Asia sells you does not cover flights they have cancelled.

After badgering them for days, I finally got this response from an Air Asia representative:
Please be inform we already escalate your case to the respective department for investigation process.
We are really apologize for any inconvenienced to you and your family .

Then I managed to get on a Live Chat after waiting in front of my laptop for over an hour to find out what “the respective department” means and how the investigation is proceeding. That gave me a case number and an undertaking to email “the respective department” for an urgent reply. But I’m not holding my breath.

We’ve just been to India and were booked to return on an Air Asia flight from Goa to KL by the company. When we checked in, the desk attendant told us that our pre-booked seats were not reclinable and we would have to pay 450 rupees each to get seats that reclined. This is another Air Asia scam – cheap flights that include nothing and everything you add (even your seats it would seem!) adds to the cost. It is cheaper to fly a non-budget airline where the price you are quoted covers your seat, your luggage, your in-flight entertainment and your refreshments.

When we went to another desk to pay for our reclinable seats, the attendant there said he could give us much better seats for no extra cost. We were reluctant to believe him but he persuaded us and changed our boarding passes. When we eventually got onto the plane (surprise, surprise! The flight was delayed by over an hour) we realised why. It was an almost empty flight and most people got three seats to themselves. Why then were we told to pay for better seats?

An update to this warning (29 July 2016):

Air Asia plane drifts into a Jet Star plane’s flight path:

Another update (5 September 2016):

Reported in the New Zealand Herald today:
“AirAsia X will drop the use of pre-selected ‘opt-out’ services and change how it discloses processing fees when selling airline tickets online after being issued with a formal warning by the Commerce Commission.
The censure was issued over AirAsia X’s flights from Auckland to the Gold Coast , when the airline’s advertised price for the flights didn’t include a pre-selected checked baggage allowance and charged an unavoidable ‘processing fee’.”

No such restrictions on Air Asia in Malaysia though! Your “cheap” flight ends up costing almost as much as other airlines. Be warned!

Yet another update (8 September 2016):

I guess I could update you on Air Asia horror stories almost every week! Here’s another. An Air Asia flight departing Sydney bound for Kuala Lumpur ended up in Melbourne. Pilot error – typed in the wrong coordinates and then didn’t correct this despite numerous opportunities to do so.


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