Man asks for flexibility after being late and not let on AirAsia flight less than 20 minutes before departure

Submitted by Stomper Kelvin

This story was submitted via Web contribution form.

A family could not board their AirAsia flight to Kuala Lumpur after arriving late at the gate and were forced to take the next flight, which, ironically, was delayed for 15 minutes.

Stomper Kelvin wanted to share what happened to him after reading about another Stomper who was not allowed to board an AirAsia flight after being five minutes late. 

Kelvin had booked for himself, his wife and two young children a flight from Changi Airport to KL departing on Sept 12 at 6.50pm.

"We had checked in on time and proceeded to clear immigration and security checks at 6.10pm," recounted the Stomper in his feedback to AirAsia.

"Unfortunately, we were held up by the security checks and only arrived at our boarding gate just after 6.30pm when we realised that the gate had closed and all AirAsia staff members had left.

"There had not been any final boarding calls or announcements made over the airport public announcement system.

"As there was no staff at the boarding gate, we scrambled to look around for assistance. In the end, I managed to speak to an AirAsia counter staff manning another gate and after he had made a few calls, I was told that there was no way the gate could be opened for us. No reason was provided other than that there were 'procedures to follow'.

"I was told that my check-in bag would be unloaded and I would have to purchase a new set of tickets for all four passengers, go back through immigration to retrieve my check-in bag, check my bag back in at the check-in counter, then go through immigration and security again to re-enter the departure hall.

"All this was at 6.40pm, still 10 minutes away from our scheduled departure time.

"In the end, I booked four new tickets on the next available flight on the website, which was at 9.30pm. Ironically, this flight was delayed for 15 minutes at the departure gate, and after we boarded the plane, the gate was only closed at 9.25pm, five minutes from the scheduled departure time!

"I do understand that standard procedures dictate that the gate be closed 20 minutes from the departure time to ensure that the flight remains on schedule, and I also acknowledge that we were late in arriving at the gate.

"Nevertheless, given that all of us were already physically at the gate with all other procedures completed, it would have taken no more than five minutes to get us all on board and the flight would still have been able to depart on time.

"In such a scenario, some degree of flexibility in allowing us to board would have been extremely helpful to my family, with no detriment whatsoever to anyone else on board the flight.

"As evidenced by the next flight we ended up taking, flight delays are not even that big a deal on AirAsia. Instead, by denying us from boarding, additional steps had to be taken to remove our already checked-in luggage from the plane.

"Furthermore, no additional help was offered to get us on to the next available flight, which in this case would have been at the very gate where this conversation was happening. Instead, we were simply left to our own devices to try to book a new set of tickets online, and no further assistance thereafter was offered.

"Of course, AirAsia being a low-cost budget airline, I am under no illusions that the service provided would be anything above the bare minimum, and unfortunately, this incident certainly confirmed this."

In response to the Stomper's feedback, AirAsia Support replied: "Please allow us to explain that our check-in counters are open three hours before the scheduled flight departure time for International flights and two hours before the scheduled flight departure time for domestic flights.

"The counters close 60 minutes before the scheduled flight departure time for international flights and 45 minutes before the scheduled flight departure time for domestic flights.

"Check-in deadlines may vary at different airports and for particular flights.

"After checking the booking history and the concerned staff, there are some points that can be shared.

"For the 6.50pm flight, gate closed 20 minutes prior to the scheduled time of departure (STD) which was supposedly 6.30pm and as per comment inserted in systems, guests approached gate at 6.43pm (seven minutes before STD).

"Guests also did pass through security checks quite late which was about 6.23pm, according to Passenger Flow Management System on the said date.

"As what guests mentioned, the staff on duty for the said flight actually was proceeding to the aircraft to report final TOB to captain and all necessaries documentation were done to be handed over once gate closed.

"If there is any flight delay due to late arrival, the gate staff will recalculate the new timing or do plus minus of the new timing of ETD and shall practise gate closed 20 minutes prior to new ETD.

"It is impossible to do a gate closed five minutes before departure time due to each relevant department who are handling the ground handling process shall have their own block time to complete the task to ensure smooth operations.

"However, we shall remind our staff to be more customer-oriented and to be more sensible when encountering this kind of situation in the future. Therefore, please accept our apologies for the inconveniences and unpleasant experience you have been through."

The Stomper wrote back: "First, to clarify, my family and I arrived at the gate only shortly after 6.30pm. Another passenger sitting near the gate waiting for another flight told us that the gate had closed and all AirAsia staff had left the gate only moments before we arrived.

"The timing recorded in your log of us approaching your staff at 6.43pm was only because there was not a single AirAsia staff in sight at the gate! We had to waste time searching around for somebody who could help, and only managed to approach AirAsia staff manning another flight at another gate.

"Even then there was still more than enough time to board us if customer service was truly the company's priority."

He added: "Moving forward, I would like to request two things.

"First, please provide a full refund for the second set of tickets we had to purchase, as this would have been completely unnecessary if your staff had simply shown some willingness to help and shown some common sense. I am not even asking for compensation for all the additional hassle I was made to go through... all while my family had to wait an additional 2½ hours for the next flight.

"Second, please escalate this matter to your manager or a company representative who can provide a logical explanation as to why, in our case, staff adherence to protocols was placed at a higher priority than helping customers get to where they need to be."

The Stomper then received an email from AirAsia that the case was closed.

He told Stomp: "Our case has since been closed unilaterally by AirAsia without a satisfactory resolution and I am quite shocked at their level of customer service and lack of engagement on the issues raised."