I am writing on behalf of my sister and many other guests scheduled to travel on AirAsia X FLIGHT D72702 bound from Kuala Lumpur to Gold Coast today 31st August 2008 at 10.20am. I was informed by a friend that AirAsia has been experiencing technical problems with its vessel traveling this long haul route for the past week or so and that they are directing its passengers to board a different flight from KLIA instead of LCCT. Her husband went through the same problem a few days back and has advised me to check my sister's flight arrangement with AirAsia since she is traveling soon.
I acknowledge the fact that when it comes to technical problems of an aircraft, that there is not much that can be done. It is fully understandable and i congratulate AirAsia for taking prompt action by diverting its services using another airline's fleet. Nevertheless, did I speak too soon?
My main disappointment that has led to the intention of writing this letter is the way things are communicated to its passengers with regards to this issue. Being a communication practitioner myself, it is devastated my to see that AirAsia does not take the very essence of communication seriously, especially in times of crisis like this. Rule of Thumb, KEEP STAKEHOLDERS INFORMED.
My sister has been booked on this flight to Gold Coast. One week prior to this date, AirAsia X has sent a reminder via email of the confirmation of this flight and its details. For that, I thank you. However, 1 day before date of departure, she receives a simple SMS on her mobile that reads the following:
"FLIGHT D72707 to GoldCoast on Sun 31AUG08 Will Operated From Main Terminal KLIA (Not Low Cost Terminal). Pls Proceed To AirAsia Sales Counter in KLIA By 4.30PM Sun." Here's some communication "gaps" that I was able to pick up instantly from the first sight of this problem. Listed also are my complaints with regards to this situation.
* Firstly, there was a simple grammatical error in the message as underlined. (Please proof read. It may sound tiny, but it isn't)
* Secondly, I personally feel that this SMS has no sufficient details that is much needed for passengers bound to travel on the said carrier. Shouldn't it include the following?
1. The date and time of the new flight
2. Which airport it will arrive in (Brisbane Airport or Gold Coast Airport?
* Thirdly, why was this SMS sent only 1 day prior to the flight when AirAsia knew for quite sometime that passengers will be diverted to use another service? If notification was sent earlier, passengers could have ample time to make adjustments to their travel plans (i.e airport pickup, connecting flights, accommodation etc).
* Fourthly, wouldn't a courteous email be an easier way to communicate clear and concise details instead of only sending this inadequate SMS? Emails would give AirAsia room to explain the situation and give proper details of the situation and also refer passengers to the designated person(s) or department that is in-charge of handling this specific case. I was surprised that AirAsia did not choose this excellent communication tool which is FREE but rather subscribe to send instant text message that I believe would incur cost to the company.
* No information what so ever was made available through AirAsia's website. No announcement, no press release and no proper links. This is the fastest way to reach stakeholders involved, in this case the passengers. Furthermore, when I tried to check the status of this flight using the service provided on the website, it still states the previous bookings with no alteration at all. I am aware that this might be a computer generated information system BUT it could have been altered given that this problem have been going on for a week or so. IF under any circumstances that passengers' mobile phone were missing or they had problems receiving SMS, what is then AirAsia's contingency plans?
* My sister reached KLIA airport by 3.30pm today and made her way to the AirAsia counter. When she got there, the ground staff told her that she had to wait for the arrival of a certain AirAsia personnel, whom will turn up only at 5pm to brief passengers about their flight journey. Another 1 and a half hour of the day gone just like that!
* To make matters worse, she only got details of her flight at 6.30pm! We might not have paid a lot for the flight, but our time must mean something, right?
* Not enough with all that, she is then directed on a flight to Sydney, departing at 10pm Malaysian time, arriving Sydney at 7.50am Australian time, where she has to check her self out, go to another airline counter and arrange for the next flight out to Gold Coast. It didn't stop here, she has to now wait for 4 hours in Sydney Airport before the flight departs to Gold Coast at 12pm.How ridiculous is this? So much for a first experience on AirAsia.
I would greatly appreciate that AirAsia look into this matter seriously at the soonest. This may seem like just another letter of complaint but this also is an opportunity for AirAsia to see itself from an outsider's point of view. In this case, a communication practitioner's point of view. I may not be a professional in this field yet, but if I as a "nobody" could see into these tiny little details, why can't an international airline giant who has an army of professionals working for them see this coming?
Once again, I must stress that it is not the technical problem of the vessel that has led to this mail but rather the "crisis communication management" that this company puts into resolving this matter.
I'd appreciate a feedback on this matter as I, myself is a frequent flyer on AirAsia. It is things like these that hinders AirAsia's reputation, and this is what is at stake at the moment.