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Despite ministerial soundbites, AirAsia passenger complaints continue

More passengers speak up about their experiences, from flight delays and cancellations to the discovery of maggots in their food.

Azzman Abdul Jamal
3 minute read
Pictures of a maggot found in a meal served on an AirAsia flight in December, shared online by Jagruti Upadhaya.
Pictures of a maggot found in a meal served on an AirAsia flight in December, shared online by Jagruti Upadhaya.

More AirAsia passengers have come forward to share their recent experiences with the budget carrier, despite a series of assurances and statements from Transport Minister Anthony Loke on ending the problem of frequent flight delays and cancellations.

A passenger from Kuching, Sarawak, told MalaysiaNow how she had been forced to fork out an extra RM1,399 just to get her family home from Kuala Lumpur.

Angelina Sinyang arrived at low-cost carrier hub klia2 at about 2.30pm for a 3.55pm flight on Jan 29. Upon her arrival, she found that she was only able to check in one piece of luggage using the self-service kiosk.

When she went to the check-in counter to speak with an AirAsia staff member, she was surprised to find it closed.

"They told me that I could no longer check in my luggage as they had already made the final call twice," she said.

Because of this, she said, there were no more staff on duty who could bring the rest of her bags to the plane.

Angelina was advised to purchase new tickets if she still intended to return to Kuching, and to claim the luggage that she had managed to check in.

"But when I went to the baggage counter, they said that the original flight had been delayed to 4.30pm," she said.

"This means that I actually would have had more time to check in my bags before going to the terminal."

In the end, Angelina bought four new tickets for a flight scheduled to depart at 9.55pm, paying RM1,399 on top of the RM2,000 she had paid for the first flight.

However, even the second flight was postponed, from 9.55pm to 11.30pm and then again to 12.05am.

"We finally arrived in Kuching at 2am," she said. "My child had to miss school the next day because she was too tired."

AirAsia topped passenger complaints from January to June last year, according to data published by the Malaysian Aviation Commission or Mavcom. 

A total of 527 complaints (42.1%) were made against the budget airline, followed by 40.7% against Malaysia Airlines. Meanwhile, Batik Air, formerly known as Malindo Air, received 99 complaints or 7.9%.

Late last year, Loke drew criticism for rebuking only Batik Air for flight delays despite similar problems of a greater frequency at AirAsia.

"As a minister, he should be fair to all parties. Why single out Batik Air? Why is there no mention of AirAsia delays and cancellations or refund issues? This is being biased," local aviation expert Germal Singh Khera, who is also a former Mavcom director, told MalaysiaNow.

Maggots in meal

For passenger Jagruti Upadhaya, her experience flying with AirAsia was a bit too much to stomach.

She and her family were on a return flight from Bali to Kuala Lumpur in December last year. They ordered four vegetarian meals to eat on the plane.

"We found maggots in my child's food," she told MalaysiaNow.

"So none of us touched ours, either. We asked the stewardess to take them all away."

Jagruti filed a complaint through AirAsia's chatbox AVA but was forced to wait until Jan 25 for a response.

"AirAsia only contacted us after I made a social media post accompanied by a picture of the maggots," she said.

"They offered us credit of RM100. We don't want money, we want a sincere apology. It's a good thing none of us fell sick."

Jagruti is still considering whether to take legal action against the airline.

Christian Echica, a Filipino working in Malaysia, said he had emailed AirAsia more than 10 times since November to ask for a refund after his flight home to Cebu for Christmas was cancelled.

Christian was forced to spend another RM1,718 on a ticket with Philippines Air instead.

Today, he still has doubts about whether he will receive his money back despite AirAsia's assurances. His hope is that Loke will intervene and take the appropriate action.

"If they were just ordinary people like us, they would want justice too," he said.

"I hope the authorities will be more sensitive to this issue and take whatever steps are necessary, like contacting the affected passengers and asking about the developments in their case."

MalaysiaNow is still awaiting a response from AirAsia.