Compensation Clinic: Thai Airways Flight HKG-BKK


This week the Compensation Clinic is making an unscheduled stop with Thai Airways (all pun intended) where I had a rather bad start and eventually ended up cancelling the flight at the Lounge during a recent trip from Hong Kong to Bangkok.


This was only the second time in 15 years of flying that I felt compelled to cancel my ticket and book a new one on a different carrier due to unacceptable service at the airport.

I checked in at the Kowloon Airport Station where the lady at the desk was sleeping at the counter on top of her purse and I had to wake her up to check me in. She did so in a very grumpy manner, I almost apologized for my rude interruption during her sleeping ‘on the clock’.

The departure ended up being delayed due to the weather issues in Hong Kong which I already expected. However, considering that Thai Airways collects email, phone and mobile phone number at any given opportunity during the booking process I would expect to get some sort of notification in case of a foreseeable flight delay. This is a pet peeve of mine that I detect with almost all airlines. Two years ago Cathay Pacific had a 6 hour delay on YVR-HKG where I had a ticket in First Class and nobody bothered to give me a call. Is it really too much to check on your max 8 First Class Passengers? Anyway…

The actual problem occurred when the gate was re-assigned to Gate Nr. 3 instead of the usual 40-60. It’s a more than substantial walk (1km+) away from the Lounge and with carry on baggage very difficult. The Train only goes the opposite direction, so walking is mandatory. I asked the lounge staff to contact the station management to provide a buggy as transportation for the guests which was declined. I asked to talk to the station manager which has also not been responded to. I was losing patience with the uncoordinated service at the Lounge and told them to tell the Duty Manager to take me off the flight if they can not provide me transportation. I subsequently booked a literally last minute ticket on Cathay Pacific using some BA Avios in First Class on the same route HKG-BKK that departed 90 minutes later.

Thai Airways responded to the written complaint as follows:

“… We write further to your e-mail regarding the captioned subject and please accept our sincere apologies for the unpleasantness and unfavorable impression created. …

As electric vehicles were not provided by Worldwide Flight Services, we were unable to book one for you from boarding gate 40 to 3 and consequently, you decided to travel CX617 HKG/BKK on your own.

Upon hearing from you, we realize how frustrating it was for you under the circumstances.  As considered the arrangement of boarding gate and electric vehicle was beyond our control, we seek your kind understanding of our position in this respect.  Nevertheless, your comments have been brought to the attention of our Station Manager for appropriate measures and corrective actions.

 In the light of overall inconvenience, we would like to refund your unused HKG/BKK ticket in full despite it is non-refundable.  Kindly find the attached refund notice and you are advised to check with your bank for the payment in due course. …”


Thai Airways is certainly not entirely at fault for the gate change but there were not many guests at the lounge and it would have been absolutely possible to order two buggies for the remaining 7 passengers at the lounge. The fact that the Handling Agent tells their staff stay at work despite being sick is unacceptable both for the well being of the employee and the health of passengers.

The check in could have advised passengers to use the Singapore Airlines Lounge which is in the back of the terminal and leaves the option to reach all gates properly and within a short period of time.

This case was not so much a compensation matter but more a refund for the ticket which however was non-refundable.

I have since purchased additional Thai Airways Tickets because I considered the case well handled and the Customer Relations & Ticketing Team in Hong Kong (City Office) one of the best TG Offices worldwide. The airport however has horrible operations, especially the boarding process is always a disaster. The fact that Thai has their check in at Terminal 2 doesn’t make matters better which is why I always check in at the HKIA Express in HKI/Kowloon.

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  1. Totally agree. Thai airways sucks. I got injury from the flight phuket to HK in Feb 2015. The plane was slide backward just before we walk out the plane after landed. Everyone fall on the chair or ground inside the plane. Then I email them few times and wait for 2 weeks to get one replied. Their replied was no compensation. I will never fly Thai airways ever again!

  2. All very inconvenient and could of course have been handled so much better. I know HK airport very well indeed and it is a huge hike from gate 40 to gate 3 which is just after immigration. Most people are not in the position to cancel their tickets of course and I’m not sure the situation warranted it if I’m honest. I totally agree with the frustration of not being contacted about a delay when all the information is with the airline. The answer of course is that they simply can’t be bothered. This is not unique to TG of course. I have noticed a deterioration across the board with airlines in this regard in recent times.

  3. So, Sebastian, just to get it straight, you basically canceled your ticket because an airline hadn’t provide a buggy for Your Majesty? Why didn’t you ask them to carry you by a litter (with a couple of slaves)?

    That’s hilarious! Last week there was an angry mob in Compensation clinic against John and his experience at Park Hyatt Milano. I was totally agree with John, however this time I feel like I’m 100% with angry mob :).

    That’s simply ridiculous and just an example of consumer terrorism. A buggy service / a litter carriage service was not supposed to be provided in the circumstances of Sebastian carriage (since it wasn’t booked in advance for an elderly person and since it’s not included as a service for lounge visitors at HKG airport). Now I can understand why sometimes you feel like Customer Care Dept-s staffs in airlines or hotels just hate customers. That’s why they hate customers:
    The gate is too far – gimme buggy or I cancel my ticket, I cant walk 1 km, you are such a poor company, don’t wanna fly…

    • He is free to cancel his ticket for whatever reason he chooses. If you want to walk around like a pleb lugging your luggage good for you.

  4. Unfortunately Sebastian, the circumstances behind you cancelling the ticket just sound like a petty tantrum.
    Yes, gate changes are always frustrating but it is certainly possible to get from check-in through security and immigration all the way down to a 60’s gate within 15 minutes. And that is me *walking* all the way with 10 kilos on my back.
    Those horizontal escalators that run both ways through the middle of the terminal? You can actually use those.

    • If you wanna lug around 10 kilos on your back like a coolie at the docks that is your problem. Why impose your values on someone else?

      • Where have I imposed my values onto Sebastian, Jay? All I did was express an *opinion* and give my *experience*, so you might want to go through a dictionary before posting in public forum.
        Also, lugging around 10 kilos on my back like a coolie makes a small contribution to keeping me in shape.

  5. Last time I took that flight, was on an award ticket HKG-BKK-CDG in F. However when I got to the T2 check-in I was informed there was a change of aircraft and no F. I was asked to sign some — I assume I was agreeing to the downgrade — and given a boarding pass for a J aisle seat with the window one blocked off. Then another agent handed me a fist full of HK$s…I think it worked out to be about U$300…in any case covered my two nights (wkend BOGO) at the IC Grand Stanford. As long as my A380 wasn’t downgraded at BKK, couldn’t really complain…even had enough time for a neck/shoulder massage in the TG Spa before it closed

    As for the gate change, reminded me of sitting for my flight one evening at IAD — an airport I detest — at a gate near the C/D merge. An announcement was made that the KWI/BAH flight which was scheduled to depart from C3 was now leaving from D30, quite a trek. A few minutes later a hundred or more people flowed past me making their way down to the other end of the D terminal. About fifteen minutes later, there was another announcement that the flight was now departing from the original C3 gate…and once more there was a flow of somewhat more disgruntled passengers making their way back to the other end of the C corridor! Having taken that flight a few times, I could certainly empathize with their frustration at being shuttled from one end of this horrid terminal to the other!

  6. HKG used to be such a well run airport. I do not think it is anything special anymore. All of the airlines at HKG provide abysmal ground service. Cathay included. Just returned from HKG, at the airport 3 times during the trip. Cathay’s lounges were dirty. The restrooms had water all over the floors and no towels, hence the water everywhere. I was not impressed with Cathay’s boarding procedures. Cathay does a better job in ORD. I wonder why? The secondary liquids screening for US bound flights is not signed. So, I was directed to economy line while the rest of my party went thru the much shorter 1st/J line. It wasn’t until I was almost to the inspection that I was put on the premium line. Cathay, even at their home airport, has a terrible ground experience!

  7. I think their response is perfect. They don’t owe you transportation. Clearly you had time to walk to that gate, given that you were able to book a flight for 90 minutes later. HKIA is definitely huge but this is clearly whining.

  8. Oh Sebastian, what an arrogant, pompous, and utterly unimaginable horror of a passenger you must be. John, why do you have this drivel written on this otherwise very good site? Seriously, being a ticketed First Class passenger does not give you entitlement to be a First Class p.o.s. or crappy whiner. Get a life.

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  10. Hope you enjoyed the contaminated water on the Cathay a Pacific flight . My preference would have been Thai regardless of no ” buggy ” , ridiculous , over contaminated water !. There is absolutely no way Cathay would have supplied a buggy and I have experience first hand and there is no way Cathay would have refunded the fare!

  11. The writer purchased a first class ticket, he deserved better service for this reason., that is one of the reasons why you travel first class.

  12. Although it is a bit more than a kilometre:

    1. Planes were parking all over the place on rainy days. Some can’t even park (cited as a problem with the various Airport Plans)
    2. There are travelators from 40/60 to 3. A bit of a pain but doable

    I suppose the lounge staff should have tried contacting the MOD to arrange it, but cancelling is a bit of an overreaction even in my book. A written complaint of the lounge staff *after* travelling on the Thai flight is more appropriate.

  13. Last february i had a flight cancelled from phuket to johannesburg(return flight) and i just discover 1 day before starting my journey (Brazil-Thailand). I called lifemiles(because i bought w miles this ticket) and they changed my flight to brazil, but instead puket to johanesburg i got hongkong to frankfurt. I send some emails to Thai explaining the situation, that i lost my connection in brazil and an appointment w the brazilian consulate and asked then a upgrade in the flight from Bangkok to frankfurt because i was flying business ,and with that change i was getting and old a340 w and old business class. The attendant in all the emails was very cordial and told me was going to send and email to THAY airport manager to give me the upgrade in case of availability , or Thay was going to pay me all the expenses that i had with the cancelation. Happyfully when i arrived in the airport i got the 2 tickets in first class.that was my 3 experience flying thayairways


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