When Nagendran bought flight tickets to Cambodia for a family trip last year, he had no idea that what was supposed to be a relaxing retreat would turn into a gruelling court journey.
He and his family had planned to visit Cambodia in August. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions under the movement control order, they were forced to cancel their trip.
They were disappointed, but given the circumstances they understood the need to close the country’s borders.
What they did not understand was the airline’s handling of the situation.
According to Nagendran, AirAsia Bhd failed to handle the matter professionally from the start, telling them only through an informal email that their flight had been cancelled.
And instead of a refund for the nearly RM5,000 they had spent on their tickets, they were only offered ticket credit for future trips.
“When you pay for a service and it is not provided, the money should be refunded in full without any excuse,” Nagendran said in a recent interview with MalaysiaNow.
“I am not a creditor but a consumer who had purchased a service. Keeping the money and giving alternatives is equitable to misleading sales and not an ethical business practice.”
MalaysiaNow contacted AirAsia for a response but has yet to receive any.
Nagendran filed a demand at the Tribunal for Consumer Claims in July last year. After some delays due to Covid-19, the hearing was scheduled for January this year.
But he was again disappointed to be told that the court could not hear his case as it did not come under its purview. Instead, he was told to seek mediation by the Malaysian Aviation Commission or Mavcom.
Mavcom acts as the intermediary party between aviation companies and consumers, and one of its functions is to provide a mechanism for the protection of the latter.
“Mavcom said they would take action, but it was just talk. No real action was taken to force AirAsia to make the payment,” Nagendran said, describing the body as “a tiger without fangs”.
When an opportunity arose, he went to the Small Claim Court in Shah Alam in April this year. He had no legal counsel as plaintiffs at this court must represent themselves. But he was determined to continue fighting for his rights as a consumer.
A hearing was set for May, but AirAsia was a no-show despite being notified through registered post.
The magistrate then awarded Nagendran repayment of RM4,727.20 plus RM100 in costs. Once again, though, there was no response from AirAsia although notification was sent on June 9 and a reminder on July 30.
Undaunted, Nagendran went to court once more to file for a show-cause letter. The case was set for Oct 13 but yet again, there was no representative from AirAsia.
As AirAsia had by then missed court hearings twice, the magistrate issued instructions for a warrant of arrest.
Speaking to the person in charge at the court, Nagendran said he would go to the airline’s headquarters himself to see if anyone responsible would undertake the remedial process.
Upon his arrival, he met AirAsia’s legal officer whom he told of the situation.
“I did not want anyone to get arrested just because of the company, but it was my money,” he said. “It was my right to get my money back.”
Given the amount he had spent, he said, anything else was not an option.
“I didn’t know about my future or if I would be taking flights in the next two to three years.”
The legal officer took copies of the related documents from him, and later emailed Nagendran informing him that the payment would be made within three to seven working days.
Happily for Nagendran, his money was refunded within the promised time frame.
Looking back at his ordeal, he said it had taken hard work to prepare the court documents and to file them himself.
But given the outcome, it was all worth it.
“It was just terribly wrong,” he said. “But at the end of the day, after all this trouble, I managed to stand my ground against a local giant.”