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.
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The Practice of Shortchanging in SM Stores

I am bothered by the fact that many stores do not give the exact change when their customers pay for their purchases. I’ve had consistent experience of this in SM stores, particularly with the supermarkets, the department stores and even Watson’s. Nothing is as irritating as the question, “Ok lang kahit kulang P0.25?” (“Is it ok if I lack P0.25 on your change?”)

Earlier tonight I passed by Watson’s to buy some medicine for my brother. Sidenote, there is no Mercury Drug inside Eastwood. You have to go out to the MDC building or cross C5 to get to one, making it very inconvenient to get to. For medicines, your choices are Watson’s or the pharmacy inside Robinson’s Grocery.

Back to my story. The medicine I got cost a total of P52.50. I paid P500, and got a change of P447. Obviously I was short P0.50, an occurrence that I had expected. The thing was, the girl at the counter didn’t even bother to ask me if it were ok that she was short fifty centavos. She just handed me my change and said thank you.

I quickly counted my money and looked at the receipt. Yep, my change was supposed to be P447.50. I asked her, “Don’t you have fifty cents?”

Given my numerous experience on similar situations, I half expected her to say that she didn’t have any. Instead, she asked me to wait and turned to the other cashier to ask if she had fifty cents.

I wanted to say, “O, meron naman pala eh,” (“Oh, you have change”) but I got the exact change back so I was slightly — only very slightly, mollified.

Is this the kind of practice SM pushes its personnel to do? It literally is shortchanging the customers. Think about it. If a thousand people shop at SM brand stores (not the ones that rent stalls in the malls, but places like the department store and supermarkets) and every one of them is shortchanged P0.25, that’s already a P250 “savings” for SM. The amount may not seem like much compared to what the malls earn in a day, but what if that shortchanging happens daily? For a year that equals to P91,250. Multiply that by the number of stores SM has all over the country.

In a way, it’s not about the money. It’s more of the principle. People go to SM (despite its many faults) because it’s accessible and it literally has it all for you. Products are fairly cheap, and it not only is a shopping place but also a place to hang out. But service is not the priority here, obviously, if management is allowing staff to shortchange their customers. I feel bad for the people who face the customers. I’m sure they don’t want to do this, afterall they’re the ones who get the brunt of a customer’s wrath.

I’m going ‘round in this argument, but I guess you get my drift. And I know for a fact that I am not the only one who has experienced this and is pissed off about it. Like I told a friend, “Mabuti pa yung FX sa Baguio. Nag susukli ng sakto.” (Taxi cabs in Baguio are better as they give the exact change to their customers.)

So before you leave the cashier, count your change and DEMAND that you get it to the last centavo. It is your right. After all, it is your money. I hope it resonates enough so SM management will take note and change their practice.