19 June 2007

"Life jacket will cost RM50 and please pay before the plane crashes"

During our flights to and back from Kuala Lumpur, I noticed something disturbing about the boarding procedure implemented by the low cost no-frills airline which I assume we all are familiar with.

In the past, this airline has practiced a boarding procedure seen in almost every airport in the world : Travellers with babies or young children, the elderly, the infirm etc will be given priority to board the plane first. Other passengers can only board after the above mentioned passengers have boarded the plane.

But during our flight to Kuala Lumpur, I found that this is no longer practiced. It is now a free-for-all, and everybody board at the same time. This airline also practices free seating, that is, you sit wherever you like. No seat numbering.

Now I find this new arrangement of free-for-all boarding very disturbing. Our flight was full, and I clearly can see quite a few parents are travelling with young children, ages 2 to 5. The parents looked worried because there's a fair bit of pushing and shoving as everybody try to rush to the front of the queue at the boarding gate. I also see a few senior citizens who may have difficulty walking very fast. Even I was worried and told my son microW to hold on to my hand tightly and I swore I will elbow anyone who tries to be a dickhead and hurt my kids with their pushing and shoving.

Then the boarding gate is opened. You should see the crazy scene. Passengers who previously appeared to be civilized human beings suddenly degenerated into pushing-shoving-rushing-running idiots heading towards the plane, all trying to get a choice seat. I see a kid trip and fall down on the pavement. I saw mayhem.

What did the airline ground crew do during all this? NOTHING.

Finally my wife, the kids and me got onto the plane, and obviously we cannot get any four-in-a-row seats so that the family can stay together. Since MrsW and my daughter have problem with flying in a plane, I had to ask some kind passengers to swap seats. (Note : I do it for the family's well being, not because I wanted the seats).

So is there any chance of the young, weak, elderly or infirm to board this airline's planes ahead of other passengers? Of course there is. You have to pay RM20.00 (US$5.50) per passenger for the privilege. Something that used to be free.

What this mean is that if you are traveling with your wife, 3 kids and two elderly grandparents, you have to pay an additional RM 140.00 (US$39) just to be able to board the plane first. For this they will put you in front of another boarding gate just next to the one for normal passengers, and you will definitely get to board first.

So what's wrong with that picture?

One, if you are indeed a family of seven, you are most probably not going to pay that obscene amount of money. But if you are an ordinary passenger, you are also most probably not going to pay that money too because then everyone else will laugh and say you are such an idiot standing in front of that gate, paying for something that anyone in their right minds will think is excessive.

This airline tried to promote this pay-and-board-first package as a status-symbol package but I dare to wager not 0.1% of their passengers ever utilized it because it made them look stupid. The marketing guy who thought this up should have been shot.

I know as a low cost no-frills airline, anything extra should cost money. The airline has to make a profit, after all. I don't mind paying for the obscene prices they charge for food and drinks during the flight or even their so called collectors' items souvenirs which are all probably manufactured in China and probably marked-up by 500% when it gets to the plane.

But I draw the line at abolishing the time-honoured boarding procedure for the young, weak and elderly because it made me feel that this airline is out to make money at any cost and if you pregnant wife ever fall down and loses her baby while boarding the plane with that horde of uncivilized maniacs, just because you did not pay the extra RM20.00, well it is just too bad.

This is unethical! To the CEO of this airline I ask : Has your riches blinded your eyes so much that you cannot tell what is common human decency anymore?

What's next? The stewardess telling us "Sir, we have an emergency. Your life jacket is under your seat, but if you want to use it you must pay us RM50.00 and please pay up before the plane crashes."?

Post note : This airline has lost me as a passenger. I swore that if ever I have to travel with the family again, I will fly Malaysian Airlines, even though the air fares will probably cost 50 to 100% more. I will do it to protect my family's well being, and will not support any company that has lost sight of human values and decency.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you on this...this RM20 extra privilege nonsense is taking it a step too far. They should implement a proper ticketing system so Asians do not turn into monkeys and become the laughing stock for western tourists, or are we too late?

Wombat said...

Gallivanter : This is a classic case of taking something that worked in western countries and applying it to our own airports, without considering the mindset of the poeple here. It won't work as long as there are still people who pile their buffet plates three storeys high.

I personally have not witnessed the boarding procedure of no-frills airlines in Europe or the USA, but I would like to believe that the passengers there are not behaving like our own certain bunch of extremely rude Malaysians. I would like to believe that normal passengers there will actually let the weak/young/elderly board the plane first, and I believe that this is so.

As for why Air Asia does not practice numbered seating, well, they never did explain why so I have to draw my own conclusions and my conclusion is this : To implement numbered seating takes more work. More work means more costs. More costs means less profit. Less profit, in the eyes of T.F. is a no-no. I hope hell has a section for people like him.

Anonymous said...

oh man, the service getting worst, eh? I seldom travel... in fact once a year only but i understand what u r saying and its true also. Nothing beats the MAS service. thats probably why the price in the first place. oh well, hope they know about this and change!

Before i forgot, you added in my new sabahan bloggers list. of coz courtesy of gall for his post about meeting all sabahan ;)

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on that, Wombat. I think they're blinded with the richness that they forget how and who gave them all the money in the first place. It was US, the passengers.

A friend of mine experienced the same situation like you too. She had to rush in to get a seat, but being a petite woman, she got pushed oh-so easily. She end up sitting at a corner where the air-cond water drips on her every now and then. As there wasn't any other seat available, she had to resort to opening an umbrella! Yes, this happened in a PLANE!

Tho cheap they may be, I think I've had enough of delayed flight, free seating etc. Malaysia Airlines might be pricey but at least they're much, much more comfortable!

PS: Besides, I get Enrich points from travelling with them! Hahahaha!

Wombat said...

If I am the one who has to suffer dripping air conds, I would not have let the plane leave the ground.

I am even contemplating whether I should take MAS even when the trip involves me only. However, for company work, it has to be Air Asia. Boss' orders.

Anonymous said...

Well, we get what we pay huh?

Wombat said...

Kay : Thank god MAS is taking back the RAS but why must wait until 1-10-2007?

Shana said...

MAS the best!