All along, I have been a very loyal supporter of MAS (Malaysian Airlines). If I could, I would do my best to book a flight with MAS because I have been largely impressed with their exceptional services. I have known some colleagues who have worked with MAS before and they carried their service mindset and professionalism into our organization. Each time a friend mentioned he/she wanted to travel, I would be promoting MAS airlines and urged them to buy tickets from MAS if it is on promotion.
However, a recent experience had changed it all.
In April 2017, I booked a return flight for a friend to travel from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and then a return flight back to Bangkok. The return flight costs me about RM751 (more expensive compared to Air Asia or Malindo promo rates but it was my favourite airline then). As the first leg of the flight was 6am in the morning, I decided to change the flight time. When I called MAS customer service, the staff advised on the charges on flight change (about 1000 baht and also to pay the difference in the fare price).
All the flights by MAS during that particular week were expensive. I told the staff I would perhaps buy another ticket but the staff failed to advise me that if my friend failed to get in the first flight, she would be denied of entry on the return flight.
I went on to buy the coming flight to KL via Air Asia which was cheaper than MAS.
About 2 days before the return flight, I started to get puzzled because I did not receive any email from MAS for check-in. The night before the flight, with all the luggage packed, I decided to give MAS a call and got a huge shock. That MAS will auto cancel the return flight without prior notification if the passenger failed to get into the first flight.
I explained to the customer service offer that I was genuinely not aware the requirement and that other airlines does not seems to have that requirement. The customer service said if the passenger wishes to get on the return flight, she has to pay about 4500 baht service fee. The service fee itself is already higher than a new ticket which I could have bought from another airline. The staff was not emphatic and she basically keep repeating the same thing like a robot. The staff said I should have read the T&C carefully before I buy the tickets. Gosh, their site will auto time out a person if they failed to proceed so I wonder where do I find the time to go through each of the fine print. Subsequently she pass the call to her manager who basically just repeated what the first staff said and sounded irritated.
As far as I am concerned, I had paid for the airport taxes and the relevant fees so it is not right that I receive no refunds whatsover. If they deny boarding, then likely the ticket could have been sold to someone else and at least I should get back the taxes as I did not use their facilities.
Subsequently I booked the return flight with Malindo Air for RM171. I called Malindo to check about no show policy and the helpful staff on the line told me that Malindo do not penalize passengers from boarding the return flight if they failed to board the first flight. The only thing if the passenger did not get into the first leg of the flight, they cannot do web check-in but must check in on the return flight via the counter (however I urge you to always call up any airlines which you have booked to check first as policy may happen from time to time).
After the experience, I went to read up more about this and then only know that other airlines including Singapore Airlines also penalize the same. However, I am puzzled why Malindo Air does not impose similar penalty to their customers. I also recalled that once with Air Asia, I did not get into the first flight (I bought another flight as it was cheaper than changing the flight) and I was not denied boarding the return flight. So of course I had no way of knowing about this until I was hit.
Therefore in future if you are buying flights that you are not sure you are going to board, perhaps it is better to buy both the departure and return tickets separately. This would avoid you being denied boarding of the return flight should you failed to board the first flight…..even if the passenger miss the flight not due to on purpose.
Many people may not be aware of such ruling …..so should ever airlines decide to implement this, at least have the courtesy to send an email/sms to notify so that the poor passenger(s) would not be left in a lurch. If I did not call up the night before the flight and just showed up at the airport, it would have been crazy. And if that day happened to be the last day the passenger could stay, they would be forced to buy another ticket at a high price to go back in order not to break Immigration ruling.
Overall, I still think MAS is one of the best services around and that I was just plain unlucky not to realized about this, and to come across staff who could be having a bad day. But going forward, they would no longer be my first choice when booking for airline tickets.
Let my sad lesson learned not to happen to you.