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.