Dear AirAsia Indonesia,
My name is Petra and I work as a software engineer. Also, since I have been using AirAsia for my personal flights for the past few years, I think I have the right to call myself as a loyal customer of AirAsia. I started using AirAsia because I admired -from my point of view as a software engineer- the fact that AirAsia has been delivering its great service in a very efficient way by leveraging the power of information technology hence producing an excellent yet affordable satisfaction.
But a good technology always has its flaws. It is another fact that I learned from my occupation. And unfortunately, this happened to me a few days ago. Hereby I want to address a few complaints about those problems I had so that AirAsia can improve its service to a better quality.
Few days ago, I was visiting Singapore for Girls’ Generation concert. I booked both departing and returning flights few days before my visit. My departing flight number was QZ7971 from Bandung. I didn’t have any difficulties doing the mobile check-in system by using the BlackBerry application that I installed after I booked the flight. But the thing is that I had a problem when I tried AirAsia app to do the mobile check-in a night before my returning flight.
That night, after I went back from the concert feeling so tired (yet so happy) I tried the app. Then after I submit all the data required (the passport, name, etc), the app returned an error message. I retried the check-in process several times, but the app kept saying that I had checked in. I kept checking my email, waiting for the check-in confirmation until the middle of the night. I was so worried because there was no email from AirAsia, but then I assured myself that there was no problem and then I went to sleep so late at that night.
In the morning, there was still no email and I remembered that I need the QR Code to get the boarding pass or I would be charged extra for the conventional check-in. I started retrying the check-in using both mobile web and the desktop web. Both sites also kept saying that I had already checked-in. And little did I realize that at that time I had spent almost an hour retrying the check-in.
Realizing I was going to be late, I took a taxi to the Airport. Taxi in Singapore was so expensive and the airport was even further than I had imagined. I arrived in the airport and I thought that I was on-time. But that was not helping. I went to the conventional check-in booth only to find that there was a very long queue of people. And when I finally reached the end of the queue, the staff told me that they already closed the check-in for my flight QZ7789. I was 10 minutes too late. I got so panic because that was the first time in my life I was late for a flight. And in panic, I asked the staff, “So I should book another flight?”, he nodded and I went to the Sales Office.
The next flight to Bandung was about 400s SGD and the next flight to Jakarta was 314 SGD. Those were so expensive, and until now I never know what made me booked the flight to Jakarta when -I believe- there were so many cheaper flights that day. Is it because I really liked AirAsia? Or is it because I was so happy from watching Girls’ Generation that I couldn’t think rationally? I never know.
Anyway, the next problem has been bugging me since a long time ago. I feel so curious on why customers can not choose their seats when they book a flight from the Sales Office. When I bought that flight to Jakarta from the Sales Office in Changi, I tried to ask for another seat. For a very personal reason, I like the seat in the wing area so much. The sales staff said that I could only do that when I do the check-in. This has happened before. It just doesn’t make any sense. If I can choose the seat from the web booking system, why can’t I choose the seat if I order the flight at the Sales Office?
The third problem is about the security in the web check-in. As the staff told me, I tried the web check-in to change the seat. There was extra charge for the seat in the wing area (my favorite seat). And when I want to input my Visa debit card, I realized that the card input page use regular HTTP instead of HTTP secure. It is one of essential security measures to use a HTTPS when you want to make a transaction using internet connection in a public area – airport, in this case. When I tried changing the HTTP to the HTTPS in that page URL, the web kept giving me error message. Then I retried the check-in process by using the HTTPS from the beginning. The web check-in always came back using the HTTP.
Fortunately, the “Add Card” feature in the account management page can use the HTTPS. And this brought me the next problem. After I added my Visa debit card, I tried the check-in again. That time from the mobile web. After I submitted the ‘change seat’ form, the page said that the payment from my card was confirmned. But then after I went the the check-in menu the page still show my original seat instead of the one I ordered. And then I tried changing the seat again. There was no difference only that the seat I ordered was displayed as unavailable.
I gave up on the seat. I proceeded to the next step of the mobile web check-in. And I came back again to the first problem. Same as the AirAsia BlackBerry App, the mobile web displayed an error message. And then when I tried the check-in again, it displayed that I had already checked-in. That time, the error message displayed something about API error. Well, that was an interesting thing to know that both the mobile web and the BlackBerry App were most likely using the same API. Call it an occupational hazard but right now I feel curious whether the web page using the same API layer.
And finally, I did something that I should have done before: went to the Customer Service. I showed the error in the web check-in to the Customer Service Staff using my tablet PC. The staff was very nice. She did my check-in stuffs and also my seat changing. And then she made sure that there was no extra charge about the seat changing problem I experienced. But, there was a funny thing about that seat changing problem. That seat I ordered was empty since the flight departed from Singapore, and then arrived at Jakarta. Was it already ordered by someone else but he/she didn’t make it to the flight, or was it because some glitches in the ordering system.
Although the root problem was the application error in AirAsia Blackberry Application, I realized that it was also partially my mistake. From a lesson worths 314 SGD flight to Jakarta plus 30s SGD taxi fare, I learned that as a customer I should not have been panic and should have gone to Customer Service when experiencing problem, and I should have arrived so early that time. And to show my good will, I wrote this letter to AirAsia so that AirAsia could improve its already-great service and no one will experience the problem.
Petra Novandi Barus
PS #1: I also posted this letter in my blog to help my friends avoid the same problem I had.
PS #2: To be honest, I’m kind of hoping that there could be some compensation for the trouble I had.