Troubled with Budget Airlines? Try Call the Right Person!

My vacation to Bali with friends from college was planned nicely for February 2010. They’ve booked promotional tickets from Air Asia few months ago, long time before the actual flight date. Though I didn’t get the promotional price (I will depart from Singapore, while they will be in Bandung), I also booked the flight for myself early.

The schedule was just nice: the plane will take off at 10 AM, and reach Bali at 12.30 PM. Then I only need to wait few hours for my friends to come from Bandung. But then for some unexplained purpose, I was informed that my flight would be moved to 4.45 PM. It’s way beyond my friends arrival time! By the way, after the change, there was another Air Asia flight with the same route departing at 10 AM (seems that after my flight has been moved, they want to sell again the “prime time” schedule).

To be honest, at first I merely accepted the change as this is a risk of taking budget airlines. Although I can easily reschedule it through the website, but it will cost me another $40 plus the difference between the new price and the old one. In that case, my flight wouldn’t be a budget one anymore. But then came a news from Rika that she’s managed to change the flight at no cost at the airport counter, so I decided to give it a try on a Saturday morning. The return trip from my place to airport takes 2 hours (and $3.34), so I don’t want to fail.
Unfortunately, when I was there and asked to change the flight, the lady who served me refused to do it. She said that I have to wait until 2 months before departure date to be able change it. Wait a minute.., I don’t want to waste my 2 hours for nothing! So I argued her that if I delay the change, the seat might have been already full at that time.

“At the moment the seats are all empty, sir!” she replied.

“Yes, but this is promotion flight, it will be full soon!” I argued.

“Then you should call the call center”, sir!” she replied again while giving me a name card containing phone numbers of several call centers.

I gave up, then I tried to call it anyway. But alas, the Singapore call center couldn’t be reached. Probably there were too many people wanting to change their flight, too. so I came back again to see the lady and complain that I couldn’t connect to the call center.

“Try the Malaysia number, Sir!”

“But that’s international call!”

“Yes sir, but if you call Singapore number, it’ll be redirected to Malaysia office anyway!”

“Arrgh! Yes, but it’s local call for me!” (this one was only in my mind, I don’t want to show my kiasu-ness to her). Instead I just asked “may I have your [office] phone to call the Malaysia number?”. And you’re right, she didn’t allow me to do it.

Then, when all hopes were fading, I decided to call an international number anyway. But rather, I would call the Indonesia number. It’s for two reasons: (1) The flight to Bali is in fact managed by Air Asia Indonesia, not by the main company itself; and (2) I speak Bahasa fluently, and the operator must be, too – it should help me a lot.

Surprisingly, the call was very smooth, even smoother than I thought. The guy allowed me to change the schedule back to 10 AM at no cost. And even more surprising when I checked my call log, it only took 5 minutes of call! The price? 64 cents using StarHub’s HomeConnect budget call. If only I know I could do that earlier! Now the only thing I need to hope is that they won’t change my flight again. But in that case, I know who to talk to now 🙂

In summary, here’s your choices on rescheduling your flight:

Time Cost Remark
Website ~ 15 mins $40 minimum N.A.
Sales Counter (wrong person) ~ 30 mins ~ $3 max 2 months before departure.
Phone (the right person) ~ 5 mins < $1 calling is easy, finding out who to call may be difficult.

Image taken from Wikipedia