… Thailand’s airline shame…
When I first started writing this blog, I mentioned that there would be the occasional rant in and amongst the plethora of often alcohol-induced thoughts and musings that I generally provide you, my beloved readers, with. Having remained silent on the subject of rants for several months now, I finally feel that it is time to share with you the true story of my experience with Thailand’s domestic air carrier, Nok Air, or as I prefer to refer to it ‘No Care’.
The story begins in late December 2017, when I booked flights for my wife and four-year-old son, on Nok Air’s service from Chiang Mai to Udon Thani. The flight (DD8612) was due to depart at 9:25 am and arrive a little over an hour later at 10:35 am. Now, before we go any further, you need to be aware that Nok Air had a monopoly on this particular route, so unless I wanted my family to spend twelve or more hours in a cramped minibus, which as it turns out would have been a better option, I had no practical alternative available to me.
Anyway, we arrived at the airport an hour and a half early, with my son literally bouncing up and down with excitement about the forthcoming plane journey. Having dropped them off, I returned home and waited for the call from my wife to let me know that they had arrived safely. Around 10:20 am, I got a call from my wife, which rather surprised me because I thought that she would still be in the air. So, you can imagine my surprise when she told me that she and my son were still in Chiang Mai, as a result of a technical problem with the aircraft.
At this point in time, I was not unduly worried. After all, a short delay on the ground due to a technical problem is far better than finding out that you’ve got one at 40,000 feet!
However, my concerns began to mount when I received another call from my wife, a couple of hours later, to say that they were still in Chiang Mai airport. Now, bearing in mind that her aged mother had travelled down from Nong Khai, approximately 50km away, to meet her at Udon Thani and that there is absolutely nothing at all to entertain young children at the departure gates of Chiang Mai airport, you can understand the cause of my growing unease.
Fast forward another hour and a half, and I get a further call from my wife to say that the engineers in Chiang Mai have given up trying to fix the plane and that another aircraft was in the process of being flown up from Bangkok. Well, that was that, I thought with some relief. A hefty and unexpected delay, but at least my family would be in Udon Thani by late afternoon.
But no! How silly of me to assume that Nok Air could do anything as simple as getting a replacement plane to Chiang Mai on time. The said aircraft sent up from Bangkok, a journey which normally takes just over an hour was delayed both at Bangkok and then again at Chiang Mai. So, instead of departing at 3:25 pm, as promised, it was still on the tarmac at 4:25 pm!
My wife and son finally arrived in Udon Thani at approximately 6 pm that evening, after a delay of over eight hours, not including the hour and a half they spent waiting due to their early arrival at the airport that morning. Needless to say, both were exhausted and my poor son’s enthusiasm for air travel was severely diminished as a result. Now, I know that many people have experienced far longer hold ups at the hands of incompetent airlines than my wife and son did, and they really do have my deepest sympathies, but we’re talking about an almost eight hour delay on what should have been an easy one hour flight.
Anyway, having lived through the saga, by proxy, on the other end of a phone line for most of the day, I decided to strike while the iron was hot and express my displeasure at what I saw as Nok Air’s screaming incompetence while my blood was still boiling. And that, dear reader, was where the real fun began…
I tried to leave a detailed complaint on Nok Air’s website, but when I finally pushed the send button, I got the extremely cryptic message: ‘Maximum allowed length of the input text is 500’ and the message wouldn’t send. Well, I did the logical thing and edited my lengthy and delicately crafted message down to 500 words, only to find that it still wouldn’t send. It took me another couple of goes before I realised that the message referred to 500 characters… including spaces! To give you an idea of how much text that is, this entire paragraph is 747 characters including spaces. Obviously, Nok Air doesn’t like to receive too much detail when someone is unhappy with their service, something that was later confirmed when I received a response from them.
By this point in time, I was nearly shaking with rage, so hopefully you can forgive me the repetition and poor grammar in the message below, which is what I was finally able to send. Oh, and I should point out that although Nok Air have since changed their comment form to include a ‘Complaint’ option (the 500-character limit still applies, however), at the time that I tried to contact them, sending a complaint was not an option.
The following day, I rather surprisingly received a reply from Nok Air, the text of which is shown below. Perhaps less surprisingly, the response pointed to their ‘No refund’ policy and basically tried to give me the brush off with a fairly stock standard reply. Well, to me, it had the opposite effect and to paraphrase the ‘Half Man Half Biscuit’ song entitled ’24 Hour Garage People’, I suddenly found that I had lots of time on my hands and plenty of things that I now wanted to say to Nok Air.
Now, you need to be aware that although I had demanded a full refund in my original complaint, I wasn’t actually all that worried about it. For me, it was more a matter of principle. In other words, my wife and son had been subjected to an unacceptable delay, caused by Nok Air’s farcical inability to organise themselves and therefore some kind of compensation, even the offer of a modestly discounted flight for my wife and son in the future, would have been an acceptable outcome. However, this was not to be…
My initial reply above, while perhaps a little blunt, gave me the opportunity to point out to Nok Air that maybe they should consider adopting a more flexible approach to their ‘No refund’ policy, given the exceptional circumstances that were involved. However, my suggestion quite literally ‘fell on deaf ears’, as I received no response at all from Nok Air. Undeterred, in fact, spurred on by this development (or lack thereof), I tried a different approach a few days later: sarcasm.
Aha! This worked and I got a response. Obviously, the staff at Nok Air were smarter than I had given them credit for. But alas, I was once again proven wrong, when all I received was the same lacklustre explanation, this time with reference to the care that they had provided in accordance with Thai Ministry of Transport regulations.
Well, this was just like a red rag to a bull. No acknowledgement of the underlying issue, just a continuous, dogged reliance on their ridiculous policy and doing the bare legal minimum to ensure the comfort of their passengers, which seems to stand a little at odds with the mission statement on their website:
“Nok Air strives to be the number one choice among low fare airlines in Thailand, providing customers true satisfaction through affordability, reliability, convenience, innovation and care.” – https://content.nokair.com/en/About-Nokair/Company-Information.aspx
Needless to say, a further communication from yours truly was required, this time pointing out in words of one-syllable or less the root cause of my displeasure and noting the difference between their attitude towards customer care and that of a more reputable carrier, something which they may have wished to strive towards.
The response from Nok Air and yes, I did receive one, spoke volumes to me. Well, not volumes in the sense that it was a detailed response to my complaint and an acknowledgement of their pitiful performance, but volumes in the sense of their entire approach towards customer care and satisfaction. Basically, they told me to get stuffed (see below).
Since then, I have had no further communication from Nok Air, which suits me fine, as I have no intention of ever using their service, such as it is, again. Nor would I ever recommend it to you, dear reader, unless of course, you want to experience the ultimate in unsatisfactory airline service, at less than attractive prices, underpinned by a total and absolute lack of concern for you, their fare paying passenger. In fact, I’d rather recommend Ryan Air than this bunch of half-wits!
Here endeth the first rant… you have been warned!