Tuesday, January 09, 2007

MAS Passengers Mad at being Kicked Off Overbooked Flights

KUALA LUMPUR: Overbooked passengers on Malaysia Airlines are hopping mad after they were told to give up their seats at short notice.

Things got so bad that several MAS ticketing staff at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) were apparently slapped and verbally abused by irate passengers.

"They shouted at us using foul language. Some of us were even slapped.

"The management had to put a policeman on standby at our counters to protect us," said a worker at the airport.

It is learnt that an average of 30 passengers were off-loaded from each flight heading to Europe, the United States and Japan.

Attempts by the New Straits Times to find out the total number of affected passengers was unsuccessful but it is believed that there were hundreds who were off-loaded.

The New Straits Times conducted a check after it was besieged by calls from angry passengers complaining about their plight.

The problem it seems had been occurring since the peak New Year period.

Passengers were especially angry as they were only informed that they were being off-loaded two hours before departure.

This, it seems, is unlike the practice of most other airlines which would ask passengers to voluntarily give up their seats.

These passengers would then be compensated with cash and meal vouchers.

If there were no volunteers, the airlines would then remove them from the flight based on "last-in-first-out".

According to several travel agents, on MAS flights, passengers who had paid the least would be the first to be removed when there is an overbooking.

However, the off-loaded passengers would be given meal vouchers, hotel accommodation, transportation, cash, compensation of RM600 each, free upgrade to business class (if there were any available seats) and free telephone calls.

Malaysia Airlines commercial director Datuk Abdul Rashid Khan said that controlled overbooking was a common industry practice by full-service carriers.

"In the case of some of our flights during the New Year period, we had an exceptionally high number of off-loaded passengers. This was partly due to overbooking and passengers who were on delayed flights from other parts of our network.

"The passengers who arrived on the delayed flights had to be given priority on the next available connecting flight. It was indeed unfortunate that we had to turn down confirmed passengers on these flights," he said in a statement.

Rashid said MAS activated its service recovery measures for the affected passengers, arranging alternative air travel, accommodation, ground transfers to and from KLIA and compensated them.

"We even transferred some passengers to other airlines at our cost. Our staff on duty at KLIA also conveyed our apologies to the passengers."

Rashid said the industry standard for denied-boarding among key European and US airlines is 10 to 14 passengers per 10,000 passengers.

"At Malaysia Airlines, we have a recommended denied-boarding benchmark of six per 10,000 passengers. Our actual performance, however, has been, on average, less than one person per 10,000 passengers."

Among those who were upset with MAS over its off-loading practice was Ajit Roy whose daughter, Shapna Roy, and her five-year-old son, Rahul Weston, were unable to board their flight to London last Friday.

Shapna was in a state of panic as she was due back at work yesterday while her son was due in school today.

"The MAS supervisor in charge of the situation was very apologetic and promised to put my daughter on the next available flight to London," Ajit said.

He said his daughter was given a total of RM900 in compensation, an upgrade to business class and also a free limousine ride to and from his house in Petaling Jaya.

Shapna and Rahul were put on the 11.55pm flight to London the next day.

"She could not understand why she was off-loaded despite having confirmed her seats two months ago. The Friday night flight would have given her enough time to overcome the jetlag," Ajit said.

Although upset, Ajit was happy with the way the MAS supervisor handled his daughter’s case. He said he noticed many passengers venting their anger on the staff.

Source : NST
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