A warning of bad service and the dangers of using online shopping services…
WARNING: Do not use AIR MALTA’s online ticket booking system if you want to fly…. here’s why…
First what happened to me, then I will paste response from Air Malta (and explain what they said for those that don’t ‘get it’.) You will agree, that if you have see the programs made by English TV companies about cheap airline ‘EasyJet’ that often cheapest is not the best. For that reason and that reason alone I have never used EasyJet, I have always gone with the more expensive ‘Air Malta’ when traveling to the UK. Never again.
Around the 5th December 2012 I decided to go back to the UK for a couple of days before Christmas to see my mother and to do some Christmas shopping. I booked time off work, I booked a hotel, I booked car rental, all for the few days 16th December 2012 to 19th December 2012… Then I booked the flights using ‘Air Malta’s online service… For just 3 days this amounted to more than €800.00, an ‘expensive’ shopping trip to say the least, but has I hadn’t seen my mother for 2 years (and she’s 73) I figured that I should even though I am extremely busy with work…
On the 16th December my friend Naomi and I went to the airport a couple of hours early (so I thought) turns out I had made a simple mistake, we had arrived at the airport 2 hours before we were due to arrive in London.. and that was some 20 minutes after the flight left Malta… This was explained to me, and unlike those on TV, I realised that it was my stupid error and that I had only myself to blame, so I asked if they could move the tickets to the next available flight, Air Malta indicated they couldn’t and that I would have to buy new tickets for the first flight the following day. They informed me that it would be €241.80 for the new outgoing tickets, I handed them my credit card and it was charged. About to leave the desk the 2 representatives started speaking together with a look of concern on their faces, my friend Naomi being a native Maltese speaker understood what was being said and let out an exclamation, I asked for an English translation, and she (not the Air Malta staff) told me that they had said that I would need to purchase return tickets as well as the computerised booking system had automatically cancelled without refund the return tickets. I informed them that I had paid for the tickets, and was going to be at the Airport on Wednesday evening for the return flight, they informed me I would be refused boarding with no rights to recourse. I immediately demanded a refund and was given the refund of the tickets I had just purchased and was told I would need to contact their Customer Care center the following day.
I called their customer care number multiple times, and received no response.. few minutes of being on-hold followed by a ‘click’ and was disconnected for each call.
I emailed via their website asking for contact details of a manager. I received an email response telling me I could not speak to a manager and should forward me complain to their email address: email@example.com I wrote the following letter:
Here is a brief description of events:
I arrived at MIA at 17:25 Sunday 16th Dec 2012 for the KM102 flight. It was pointed out to me that my ‘2 hours early’ was actually 35 minutes after departure because I had mis-read the itinerary and the departure time was actually I was ‘arriving early’ for was the arrival time in London. I felt an idiot, but mistakes happen. I requested from the Air Malta desk at MIA to see if I could move the flights to the next available, they after 10 minutes on the computer said that they couldn’t access the booking as I was a ‘no show’ and therefore I would need to buy a new ticket. They informed me the price would be €241.90 for the flight the following morning (at 7:50am) I agreed and handed my credit card to pay for tickets for myself and Naomi Xuereb (my traveling partner) and the staff appropriately charged my credit card.
I was then informed that because I was a ‘no show’ on the first flight, the tickets for my return had been automatically cancelled and they would need to book new tickets for my return at a cost exceeding €500 (or I could travel on another day at lower cost) I informed them that I had not taken my ticket, I had not canceled it, and it was at least 72 hours from that point and they had no right to cancel my flight. They informed me (both working staff) that it was ‘the way the computer works’ I told them I would be at the airport on Wednesday evening presenting my tickets and I would should not deny me boarding, they informed me that my ticket was invalid and I would be refused and stranded in London. I informed them that that was unacceptable and they should refund me immediately for the unused tickets, they refused saying the tickets were ‘lost’ and I would need to contact customer care.
A short discussion/argument ensued and I demanded a refund in disgust for the €241.90 I had just paid. I returned home with Naomi and called AVIS and LastMinute.com’s customer care inquiring about a refund giving the full list of events. They both offered their sympathy and indicated they would attempt to refund my bookings (I had prepaid) as the circumstances were unusual to say the least. They have since indicated that this is not possible.
I am therefore requesting politely in the first instance that you refund my out of pocket expenses. This amounts to:
€544.40 (Booked flights with AirMalta – Ref: NCWIVM)
€192.16 (Lost hotel cost for 18th-19th Dec 2012: UKP146.88 @ Exchange Rate of 0.7873 (1.2702) + 3% commission [HSBC Malta current rates])
€124.50 (AVIS Car Rental: UKP95.76 @ Exchange Rate of 0.7873 (1.2702) + 3% commission [HSBC Malta current rates])
€861.06 [Sub total]
€241.90- (less amount for replacement ticket that I was able to purchase should Air Malta have not canceled my return ticket, because it was my initial mistake.)
I think you would agree that it is a reasonable request to compensate me for my losses due to ‘the way the computer is programmed’. I would suggest you amend your computer system programming to avoid other similar incidents as the Air Malta staff indicated that this issue had occurred with someone else on the same day, and as Air Malta is already having Financial issues it would not be a very good idea to have people like myself dissatisfied with Air Malta’s service as it is likely to cause you considerable negative publicity and therefore lost of profits for your investors (not to mention more lay-offs for all staff.) There is an old saying “a satisfied customer will tell 3 friends, an angry customer will tell 100 people” Mr Joe Debono Grech found out just how many people I can tell when I’m angry just a few months ago, I pray that you do not have to find out how many people I will tell if this is not resolved satisfactorily.
I look forward to a prompt response.
… I received a response a few hours later indicating that their relevant department would respond to my request soon.
3 Days later…
I emailed them again indicating I had not had a response.
I then received the following:
Dear Mrs. Sullivan,
Customer Care Ref: ICCHO019286
Further to our previous correspondence, please note that we have duly noted the contents of your e-mail and would like to advise you as follows.
Please allow us to express our sincere apologies for any inconvenience that you may have experienced whikst using our services.
We wish to emphasise that here at Air Malta, ensuring total customer satisfaction is one of the maxims that guide our mission as a leading service provider in the travel and transportation industry.
Unfortunately, there may be isolated instances where this required level is felt not to have been provided. However, this does not detract from the importance of us continually trying to reach the highest possible levels of customer satisfaction.
One of the steps taken in this direction has been to ensure that our clients have full access to the Terms and Conditions of Carriage. In fact, these may be easily located on the Air Malta website (http://www.airmalta.com/conditions-of-carriage). It is indeed in these Terms and Conditions that one will find that if the passenger does not show up for any flight without advising Air Malta in advance, then Air Malta may cancel the passenger’s return or onward reservations.
We consider Article 5.6 in the latter Conditions, which you freely accepted to form part of our Contract of Carriage upon purchasing your Air Malta flight ticket, to be very clear. Consequently, Air Malta cannot and will not be liable for any loss or damage arising from the failure to comply with the Terms and Conditions, which clearly state that any changes need to be done prior departure. In effect, Air Malta’s General Conditions of Carriage regulate the contractual relationship that exists between Air Malta and your good self in this case. Such Conditions are in line with IATA’s (i.e. the International Air Transport Association) recommended practices. It is ultimately the responsibility of the passenger, as with any other contract, to read through such Conditions prior to purchasing his flight ticket.
For your ease of reference, the aforementioned Article 5.6 states as follows:
5.6 CANCELLATION OF ONWARD RESERVATIONS
Please be advised that if you do not show up for any flight without advising us in advance, we may cancel your return or onward reservations. However, if you do advise us in advance, we will not cancel your subsequent flight reservations.
You will appreciate that you have violated Article 5.6 of the Contract of Carriage in force between Air Malta and your good self when you failed to show up for flight KM102 on the 16th December, without any advance notice being given to Air Malta. As a result of your actions Air Malta had every right, pursuant to the aforementioned quoted Article, to cancel your subsequent flight reservations.
In these circumstances we believe that Air Malta acted according to the conditions of the ticket agreement, however if you feel that the matter could have been handled more effectively then please accept our sincere apologies.
Whilst trusting to have informed you accordingly, please do not hesitate to contact us should you require any further assistance.
Customer Care Representative
Air Malta Plc
Sky Parks Business Centre, Level 2
Malta International Airport, Luqa LQA4000
So for those that “don’t get it” Air Malta will, if you don’t take a flight and don’t inform them in advance, cancel all your flights for all passengers on your itinerary and will refuse a refund of all costs associated with those flights (including the tickets for flights not yet taken that you would have otherwise taken.) … And you thought EasyJet was bad for charging people for new tickets when passengers turn up 10 minutes late for check-in… At least EasyJet and RyanAir don’t cancel without refund all your flights in the future.
My advice to people is simple… Don’t fly Air Malta at all… and if you have no choice, don’t book your flights online with Air Malta, and what ever happens book all the flights individually because if one person on your ticket fails to arrive at the airport on time, you’ll have your flights cancelled without refund… including any return.. At least if you have a separate ticket and separate itinerary for each person and flight they cannot use ‘Rule 5.6’ to cancel tickets.. though I expect they will soon amend policy to to cancel anything in your name should you fail to show up for any flight…
Oh, and for reference (and have heard this from others as well) … their ‘Frequent Flyer’ program.. I am a member, I cannot get any credits for my flights (and haven’t for the last 3 years except for the very first flight)… and I fly some 60,000 air mails per year on average… Others I know have only been credited Economy miles for Business class flights, and several time I have had issues with Air Malta (particularly flying out of London) for being just 1kg overweight… on one occasion they attempted to charge me an addition €150…
So the message is simple…
Use EASYJET or RYAN AIR and discard Air Malta to the bin of ‘never fly with these idiots’…