The Hassle of Cancelled Flights and Messy Airlines

Being a chance passenger on a bus is not as nerve-wracking as being a chance passenger on a plane.

Because of Typhoon Ruby (international name Hagupit), our flight back to Manila on December 8 was cancelled. The storm had slowed down by then, but Air Asia took the precaution of canceling all flights from December 7 to 9. We had no choice but to extend our stay for two more days.

The stay itself wasn’t so bad, as the hotel was able to accommodate us for two extra nights. The problem was that my friend and I had only taken vacation leaves for two days (one day for our departure and the other for our return). We were able to inform our respective workplaces, but we were worried about the repercussions of the other days.

Another problem was that we were already beyond our budget. I had asked my family to send me money, but I hoped I didn’t have to use it.

The main concern was how were we going to go back. We tried contacting Air Asia through it’s various portals (call, social media, satellite office, etc) but we kept getting mixed responses.

My main contact was through the Twitter of Air Asia Philippines. I saw that they were accommodating rebookings for other passengers (though probably for different flights), so I took the chance. After providing the flight number and the booking number, I was told I have to go to their website to file for a rebooking. This was Sunday night.

I tried again the next day, this time through a direct message. I was then told that the only flight available was for December 15. I replied that it was not acceptable, and asked if they can facilitate a multi-city transfer, like Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur to Manila. I was informed that they cannot accommodate the multi-city option, and that since my flight was cancelled I had the option to rebook the flight and gave me specific dates.

I responded in Tagalog, telling them that neither options are acceptable as we needed to go home ASAP. We were on vacation only, and we had jobs and responsibilities to go home to. Plus the fact that we were running low on funds.

I asked of there was any compensation for the inconvenience, such as a refund or repayment of expenses. I was told to fill up an online form, and that was it.

On Tuesday, we went to the airport to ask what were our options. We were told nearly the same thing as to the availability of the flight. The attendant placed our name on a list, and said that those were the names of the people who were also trying to get a seat. I saw that we were number 6 on the list, and we were advised to be at the airport two hours or so before the flight.

We went back to the city, and listed our other option, which was to look for flights to KL or Singapore then get a connecting flight to Manila. Our goal was to get home on December 10, with the least cost possible.

We were at the airport by 8 AM. Again we were told that we were on the list, but I was surprised to see that we were number 9! That got me worried. But since we couldn’t do anything we went off to have a second round of breakfast.

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Back at the airport, we joined a few people who were all waiting for a chance to get on the flight. We talked to the staff again, and to opt for the multi-city we had to get a full refund for this trip and rebook a flight. They said can’t switch flights since it wasn’t the same track (or something like that). That seemed like such a hassle so we thought we’d play it by ear.

A little before 11:30 the attendants were calling the names of the people on the list. I started talking to some of the other Filipinos in line, two guys who went up Mt. Kinabalu, and one guy who lived in KK but had family in Manila. I found out that the pair was told that they could opt for a multi-city trip, which was contradictory to what I was told via Twitter.

We anxiously awaited our fate. When my friend’s name was called, I wanted to raise my arms and yell, “Victory!” Still, until I was on the plane, I wasn’t going to breathe easy.

Our tickets were processed, and we made for a mad rush through the security and immigration. I sat next to the two guys, while my friend was in a different seat.

I’m writing this while I’m on the plane, and I am just so excited to land in Manila. I don’t know what’s waiting for me at work, but I’ll deal with that tomorrow. We’ll definitely try to get some compensation from the airline, and maybe some other insurance options. Lesson learned: get insurance when you travel.

I can’t wait to be home.

Postscript:
Arrived in Manila a little after 2 PM. I know I’m home when it takes about an hour to get a cab (we eventually got Uber and it was awesome!) and another hour to get out of the airport. Traffic, I did not miss you. I still am not home as of this post, because I am hoping traffic would lessen by the time I decide to leave for home.