Sunday, February 23, 2014

Malaysia Airlines Experience

5 February 2014

It had been a long long while since we flew on Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to an international destination, for obvious reasons.  But this time after a long and hard contemplation, we decided to buy tickets to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne after the CNY holidays.  We knew that standing-by on Emirates would have been almost impossible so we did not want to gamble it and risk missing more days of school than planned.  So we bought a firm ticket on Malaysia Airlines because Malaysia Airlines was the cheaper option at that time compared the other options we had.

We bought the ticket early September 2013 the moment we saw that the tickets were reasonably priced.  Like most others’ experiences in buying a ticket(s) from Malaysia Airlines – it was a pain!  In case you are wondering what I went through, here’s my letter of complaint I sent to them.  You could say it was more like a “Letter of Anger” if anything.

General Manager
Malaysia Airlines Berhad

Dear  Sir

I am writing to you with great disappointment, frustration and anger at your internet booking system.

On the 2 September 2013, my husband tried to book 3 tickets for us (1 adult + 2 children) to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne on the 5th February 2014 on MH129 (1015 hours).  He was making this booking from Dubai.  When we, both of us checked your Malaysia Airlines website, the price listed for the particular flight was RM970 which brought the total fare to RM2572.00 for all 3 passengers.  However, after entering all the passengers' details and clicking on "Proceed to Payment", an error appeared on the top of the page saying, "We regret that the requested page is not currently accessible.  Please contact our helpdesk at 1-300-88-3000 (from Malaysia) or 603-7843-3000 (outside Malaysia)".  He thought there was something wrong with the system and so he tried it again and again, the same error appeared.  So he decided to restart the booking all over again from the start.  He managed to get the exact same fare for the exact same date and time of flight.  He entered all the passengers' details again and when he clicked "Proceed to Payment", the same error appeared. 

So I decided to take over the booking and do it myself from Melbourne.  I started making the booking by entering the route and date and too managed to get the exact same fare as my husband did, so I proceeded to enter the passengers' details and clicked on "Proceed to Payment".  SAME error appeared, "We regret that the requested page is not currently accessible.  Please contact our helpdesk at 1-300-88-3000 (from Malaysia) or 603-7843-3000 (outside Malaysia)".  I tried this process several times and keep getting the same error. 

I called my father in Labuan to try to make the booking from there hoping that the internet system could be better from Malaysia.  My father went through the website and he too managed to get the exact same fare for the exact same date and flight.  And when he clicked on "Proceed to Payment", the same error appeared.  So he called the helpdesk number as shown on your website.   He spoke to your staff Syarifah.  This was probably at about 11 pm Malaysian time. 

Syarifah was no help.  She checked her system to see if the bookings were made and she confirmed that there has not been any bookings made under my name.   She suggested to my dad that he use a different internet browser and even suggested that his computer was outdated.  I was listening in to their conversation via Skype and I decided to join-in the conversation.   I explained to her that my husband in Dubai got the same error, I in Melbourne got the same error and my dad got the same error and the "outdated internet browser" reason is not acceptable.  She could not explain the error that appeared.  She then suggested that we use the smartphone application to make the booking.  Since she could not be of any assistance in helping solve our problem, we decided to end the call. 

I downloaded your Malaysia Airlines smartphone application and checked.  Not only was the fare different from the ones we got in the internet, there was no option to enter "children" as passengers.  Your smartphone application is anything but SMART.

We spent a good 3 hours between the 3 of us trying to make the one booking on your website and yet it could not be done. How is MAS going international???This is so unacceptable!  It was already nearly 1.30 am Melbourne time so I decided to wait for the morning to see what can be done.

3 September 2013.  I went into your website attempt to make the bookings again but to no surprise, the fares for the desired flight has changed and it is way more expensive that what it was before.  I am now looking to pay RM4222 for the flight that I wanted!  I immediately called the reservation number listed and was directed to your KL office. 

I first spoke to your staff Omar at about 9.45 am Melbourne time.  I explained my situation and he confirmed that my bookings were not in the system.  I told him the flight that I wanted and he said that the fare that I got last night is no longer there and there's nothing he or I can do about it.  I explained to him that this was very unfair and he said that "this is how the system works".  I asked to speak to a supervisor / manager and he replied to say "there's no point speaking to a manager, they too cannot help you".  He also said that the reason why I got that error was probably because the system was updating the fares.  I pointed out to him that 3 people tried over the span of about 3 hours and we all go the exact same fare, how can it be that your system takes 3 hours to update?  I do not think that that is a fair and reasonable reason.  I demanded to speak to a manager and he insisted that this could not be done.  I was frustrated as this situation wasn't solved.  Omar had the audacity put the phone down on me ending our conversation abruptly.  Again such unprofessional behavior is unacceptable.

You can imagine my anger and frustration now.  So I called your Melbourne ticketing office hoping that they can be of better assistance.  However, the person who took my call said that the ticketing office cannot help my situation and once again they transferred me to our reservations line in KL. 

The next person I spoke to was Mior.  Again, I explained to him my situation all over again, he checked the system and again told me that nothing can be done.  The price is now different and that if I want to fly with Malaysia Airlines, I will have to pay the new price.  I told him that this is very unfair and all he could say is "that's the only way".  He very kindly called the internet department to clarify this matter and he came back to me saying that the error we got was probably because the system was probably updating the fares.  Again, I thought that the reason was very unfair and unreasonable because we were trying to make the booking over a span of 3 hours, 3 different people, 3 different countries and all 3 of us got the exact same fare.  The system could not be updating for that long, can it? Is that what MAS does?  Mior explained that this always happens during MATTA Fairs which coincidently starts today.  Again, an unacceptable reason. 

1.            Can you please explain why we got the error when we were making the booking?  Your staffs' explanation "system updating when I was making the booking" is utter nonsense.  Your system should not take that long to update itself.  Can you explain how 3 different people making the same booking on the same flight got the exact same fare over a span of 3 hours and yet got the same error?  If your system does take more than 3 hours to update its fares, etc, you have a real problem and your IT department should be sacked! BTW your Chairman promises MAS will return profits by next second quarter and for the life of me I cannot see how that is going to happen!!!

2.            Your error on the website, "We regret that the requested page is not currently accessible.  Please contact our helpdesk at 1-300-88-3000 (from Malaysia) or 603-7843-3000 (outside Malaysia)".  Please do not call it a Helpdesk, when help is not given.

3.            Mior's explanation on the inefficiency of your system during the yearly MATTA Fair is ridiculous.  If this is a yearly problem, why is it still a problem?!  Shouldn't this problem be solved by now?  I do not understand that if other airlines do not experience this problem, why should MAS, the National carrier have this problem?  Mior mentioned that "too many people want to fly on MAS and the system cannot handle".(He must be kidding!). That reasoning dumbfounded me. If your system cannot handle such number, then something is truly wrong with your system.  I cannot imagine your Airlines handling much more than your competitors.   Mior also admitted that the most common problem your website has is payment and passengers normally get stuck when making payment.  I myself have experienced payment issues in your website and I do not understand why this is still an issue till today!

4.            Your staffs' suggestions to opt for another flight or pay the more expensive fare is totally unacceptable.  I want the fare that was shown on the website when my husband, my father and I made the booking.  You should honour the price that was given to us.  The fare was given not only once but so many times over so many attempts to buy the tickets.

5.            Please address the issue of your staff Omar abruptly ending the phone call with me.

Please respond. Thank you. 

Yours sincerely

So that was my letter to Malaysia Airlines.  I did get replies from their Customer Service Department and there were several email correspondences between them and myself regarding my complaint.  In summary, they apologized for the experience I had and promised to address and improve the issues I raised.

Anyway, 5 February 2014 came and it was time for us to fly back to Melbourne on MAS.  The last time I flew MAS International was back in 2007 when Jiawen and I flew to New York so it has been quite a while since we have flown on MAS to an international destination.  Honestly, I was dreading this flight because of the experience I had when buying the tickets and that had really put me off flying on MAS.  But we bought the tickets and forfeiting the tickets would have been silly and we needed to get back to Melbourne.

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The queue to check-in was pretty long and it took us almost 30 minutes to get to the counter.  We got to the counter and the staff at the counter was not friendly at all even after my attempts to create a friendly conversation.  No please or thank-yous.  I don’t think he even looked at me in the face let alone smile.  It don’t matter, all I am thankful for was that MAS recently upgraded their baggage allowance to 30kg per person = 90kg!

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I hadn’t been on an MAS plane in a while so all these seemed new to me.  The upholstery isn’t the same as it used to be, colours have changed.  Even the colour of the male cabin crews’ uniforms have changed!!  This was MAS’s A330 flight to Melbourne. 

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JX following some inflight exercises shown on the TV.

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Quite decent leg room

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Their In-Flight-Entertainment (IFE).  This is nothing compared to Emirates Airlines’ IFE.  Choices of movies, shows, music, etc were just a fraction of what Emirates offer.

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MAS raves about their Cabin Staff and have won awards for it but on my flight, I did not think they were outstanding.  They were not bad but definitely not outstanding.  In fact, I witnessed something that caught my attention.  There was a lady seated next to JX.  She was handed a landing card by the cabin crew and when she realised that she didn’t have a pen to fill the form with, she asked one of the crew for a pen and to that he replied “You don’t travel with a pen?” sarcastically!  I was shocked at what he said to the passenger, I could not believe it.  There was a short pause and I was waiting for him to redeem himself but he didn’t.  I think the passenger herself was too shocked to say anything but “No, I don’t have a pen with me”.  The crew only said “WAIT” and walked away.  He never came back with the pen. 

(psst! if I am not mistaken and if my memory serves me well, it was that crew infront in the top right picture)

After the Nasi Lemak Telanjang incident, I had to take pictures of our meals on our flight.  We were served dinner followed by a light meal before we landed.

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So maybe these weren’t as “telanjang” as Chef Wan’s Nasi Lemak but the food tasted awful.  You would think the chicken rendang (I think it was) should really be nice because it is made and cooked in Malaysia, no man!  Tak sedap langsung.  The fish pasta was worse.  And I have to say that I do not care for the foil covers.  Not only were they just aluminium foils, they were so badly wrapped that it really spoilt my appetite.  And plastic cutlery?!!? Really?  JX did not like the meal but was so hungry he ate all our buns!

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Vegetable wrap for our light meal before landing, couldn’t finish it.  Tak sedap.

I am not trying to be critical of MAS but they didn’t even give out toys of gifts for children!!  None!  Cost cutting measures?  How lah to compete with other Airlines.  Ni dah macam LCC!

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Basic flight information

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I am not sure about other airline’s A330 but I was in awe at this mega huge toilet they have here.  It was definitely the largest aircraft toilet that I have ever seen in economy.  Can dance inside there, great for parents with young children or babies.

 

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A peep at their Business Class

Our flight experience was uneventful (except for the shockingly rude crew).  As a national carrier, it needs to buck up badly right from its booking services right up to their flight services in order to compete with other leading airlines.  MAS is not a low-cost carrier (LCC) and yet I tend to always choose Air Asia over MAS. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pit Stop–Singapore


1 January 2014

It all started with our Nippon friend who decided to fly to Singapore for some food orgasm over the NYE.  He did not tell us of his plans until he was about to fly to Singapore and then the idea of “why don’t you all come to Singapore too?” manifested.  Shien Wei and I knew that it was a workable idea and we were tempted.  Well I was more tempted than my lazy husband.  As usual my lazy husband was lazy although the thought of meeting his classmates in Singapore was pretty tempting. 

It started out going to spend the NYE countdown in Singapore and then it became a BBQ Potluck on the gathering on 1st Jan with all the rest of classmates there.  So, Paul and Akira literally within a few hours managed to get almost everyone to say yes to a BBQ Potluck Gathering all planned out with foods and venue!!  Well that’s not the end of the story actually.  It took a lot, a lot of persuasion to get Shien Wei to say yes.  While the boys down south were busy planning and buying foods, they were also busy trying to persuade their friend to join the fun.  Shien Wei only finally agreed when they sent in the “charmer” who finally managed to lock him in!  I am so sorry boys, I am sorry you guys had to go through all of those drama but you gotta have a little drama to make it worth the while eh?  And in my defense, I was already on board the moment Akira said he was going to be Singapore.  I knew we didn’t have plans for NYE nor 1st Jan and we were going to Johor anyways so I knew that Singapore was totally workable.

So the plan to go to Legoland Malaysia in Johor included a short diversion into Singapore to meet with the SFI boys there.  (I am sounding like I am an ex Franciscan).  For the first time, we drove into Singapore.  Shien Wei was a bit unsure about driving into Singapore at first but we did it anyway and it turned out to be a good experience.  Hey, I was the one driving from Woodlands to the BKE to the SLE to the TPE to the PIE. 

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On our way to Singapore.  Sorry no pictures of our drive in Singapore because I was the one driving lah.

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After a quick lunch with friends, we went to Costa Sands Resort Pasir Ris to meet with Akira & Paul and to start with our PARTAY!

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Starting the fire!  Akira starting up the pit with the a whole box of fire starter (okok, not the whole box but almost!) and with the Pengakap boy looking and “assisting” and holding the wine.  It would have been impossible for the fire not to start with that amount of fire starters lah.

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Akira, SW and Eric

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Move aside boys!  Here comes Paul the real expert and our chef for the night.

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Every chef needs assistants to hold and keep the wine coming and also needs a doctor standing by.

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Paul, SW, Akira, Choy, EeFen, Mike & Eric

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Sous Chefs.  NOTE:  Always have the doctor nearby!

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SW, Choy, Eric & Chia Yee

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This picture was specially taken for a dear dear friend in Doha.

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What we had – orgasmic!

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Check out our Chef at work!

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The “charmer” who sealed the deal.

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SW, Paul, Akira & Jonathan.

The night only ended at about 2 AM.  It was a superb pit stop and we glad we did it.  Thank you boys for making it happen and making it a memorable one.  We had a good time.  Happy 2014!

(the morning after, we drove to Legoland)

Remembering Times

Remembering Times