Case dismissed: They downgraded Dad and now they’re ignoring me

Sriram Singa paid $929 for a business class ticket from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines.

It’s not that Singa demands first-class treatment. The ticket was for his father, who suffers from back problems, and on the 1,615-mile flight, he needed the room.

But he didn’t get it.

“On the return leg, my father was downgraded to economy due to an equipment change,” says Singa. “The agent at the airport wouldn’t give my father a refund or any compensation for the downgrade, instead telling him to contact his travel agent.”

That would be Expedia.

And what did Expedia do? Not much.

Expedia, of course, told us that Malaysia Airlines would have to issue a refund, but they did try to contact them on our behalf.

After making several calls (and having to make them between 9 to 5 Malaysia time), Malaysia Airlines was unresponsive, and the best answer they would give was to visit their ticket office in Kuala Lumpur.

Since we live near Dallas, this wasn’t very feasible. Emails to their customer support went unanswered.

Looks like Malaysia Airlines would keep Singa’s $929, even though he only sat in economy class. But he wasn’t about to give up.

I finally tracked down Malaysia Airlines’ Los Angeles ticket office, and after having to physically mail in a downgrade printout (I don’t understand why they couldn’t have verified things using their computers), and waiting about three months, we were refunded a grand total of $81.

Needless to say, I feel that this is rather inadequate. Their justification for the amount is that it is the difference between the fare we paid, and the fare they would charge for a one-way business class ticket with an economy return.

It’s true that airlines often recalculate fares in a way that is most favorable to them when they owe a refund for an involuntary downgrade. I’ve seen it again and again. In this instance, the economy-class return is a walk-up fare, which is the only one that can be combined withe a business-class fare in the airline’s reservation system.

How convenient.

Singa calculates he’s owed more like $369, which doesn’t include any compensation for downgrading Dad.

He didn’t accept the $81 refund and complained to the Better Business Bureau and the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division. After that, Malaysia Airlines offering him another $190 as “a gesture of goodwill.”

“I reject any goodwill in this offer as this is a refund that is owed to me, and also still less than the minimum that I feel is due,” told me.

I agree with him. I think Malaysia’s calculations are wrong, and I think his online travel agency should help him recover the money. So I contacted Expedia on his behalf.

Here’s Expedia’s response:

The roundtrip ticket you purchased was to include business class seating on the return portion of your flight. Our customer service representatives contacted Malaysia Airlines to advocate on your behalf for a partial refund due to the equipment downgrade.

Malaysia Airlines confirmed an equipment downgrade occurred on that date, and advised they processed a refund of $81 due to the change in seating class provided.

Additionally, Malaysia Airlines has informed us the value of your return flight was $361. As the airline had issued a refund of $81 and offered an additional refund of $190; a total refund of $271 covered the additional cost paid for your initial upgrade to business class.

In other words, Expedia is going with Malaysia Airlines’ math.

Today I reluctantly move Singa’s problem into the “case dismissed” file, even though he’s probably not out of options. He can still take Expedia or Malaysia Airlines to small claims court, although it might not be worth the effort to recover the money.

Funny, I thought travel agents — online and otherwise — were there to advocate for you, not the airline.

Photo: fox 2mike/Flickr Creative Commons

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Tom

    Malaysia seems to exempt itself from the type of behavoir expected of wesern airlines. Doubt Expedia could change Malaysia’s supercilious business practices.

  • emanon256

    My initial thoughts are that this is completely unfair, and I believe it’s not right that the airline use a walk up fare to calculate the difference.  In my opinion, they should go back and look at what the round trip coach fare would have been based on when it was initially purchased, and refund half of that difference.  If I were Mr. Singa I would dispute a portion of the transition on my credit card and go from there. I would believe that the airline would keep all paid Business class ticket holders in Business when there is an equipment swap, and downgrade those where were upgraded and not actually holding a business class ticket.
    My only concern is when Expedia says that he paid to upgrade to business; that comment raised a red flag.  Did he purchase a Business Class ticket?  Or did he upgrade an economy ticket?  $929 seems pretty cheap for a round trip business ticket on a 4 hour flight, when I search for business class tickets on flights of that length they are often $2,000-$4,000, which is why I never buy them.  However $600 to $1,000 seems in line with an upgradable economy ticket.
    Is it possible that Mr. Singa bought an upgradable economy fair and then had to pay a small co-pay to upgrade?  I often get offers to upgrade for anywhere from $59 to $199 on my flights.  If he purchased an upgradable fare and them paid to upgrade, and is just being refunded the upgrade co-pay, than I am afraid that is the risk he is taking with buying an upgrade, rather than a Business class fare, and he was refunded appropriately.

  • Michael

    I’d expect that MH comply with whatever is the posted policy on the matter.. Whether or not this is ‘fair’ is another story, and one that you as the consumer can judge for yourself before you choose to do business with them.

    Yes, most people don’t read the contact of carriage, or know or even ask these questions, but I also think there’s some level of personal responsibility in the matter to be an informed consumer.

    IF, and that’s an IF, the method that MH is using to calculate the passengers contractually entitled invol downgrade refund, then I have no issues with that– as that would be MH playing by the rules as written..

    As far as Expedia “advocating” for the passenger goes, at *minimum* I’d expect that to be Expedia exhausting all reasonable efforts to get the carrier to comply with their Contractual requirements- and do so in a timely manner..  only from what’s written, it sounds as if MH has in fact met their Contractual mandates– but did so in a less-than timely manner..

    As far as moving forward.. I don’t see the BBB as being overtly usseful– only for the fact that they have zero statutory authority over MH.. The DOT’s ACPED might be helpful, but I suspect they won’t directly intervene unless there’s reasonable evidence of a DOT rules violation– which again, only from what’s written here, does not appear to the be the case.

  • Mbods2002

    Good case for not ever using Expedia.  Don’t they know how far your reach is?  Their bad, I guess

  • Carver

    I must strongly disagree. When the rules are written by one side, there is an entire statutory scheme to prevent the take it or leave it response.

    I agree that the BBB is useless, not because of any statutory authority, as the BBB has none, but because its reach tends to be local.

    My advise to the OP would be to first see which US government department handles foreign carriers.  If Malaysian air flies to the US theremay be jurisdiction.  If so,file a formal complaint.

    Alternatively, you can sue in small claims court. Presumably the OP paid with a credit card. I’d allege that the transaction took place in my home town.  The airline won’t show and you win.  To be honest the judgment is worthless but I’d do it anyway.

  • SimplyRed

    “… were there to advocate for you, not the airline.”

    Silly man, they’re there to make money!

  • DavidS

    I am not usually a fan of online ticketing websites, but Expedia did more than I thought they would. Could a traditional brick and mortar agency have done better? Maybe…maybe not.

    Looking at current pricing for travel within 30 days the business class fare on Malaysian is pricing at $640 rt. Something is not adding up, it would be interesting to see the fare breakdown with booking classes used on the original ticket.

  • john4868

    This entire story ultimately comes down to what he purchased.  If he purchased an upgradable coach fare and paid for the upgrade (which is what the language from Expedia suggests), that is not the same as purchasing a business class ticket.  For quite a number of airlines, you are only guaranteed an economy class seat if anything happens (it’s happened to me before).
    So if he purchased an upgradable seat and they refunded him the upgrade cost, they covered their obligation. If he purchased a business class seat, I would say that they owe him the ½ the difference between what he paid and what he would have paid if he purchased a coach seat.
    Based on cost, I can’t tell if Expedia misspoke and he purchased a business class seat or he purchased an upgradable coach seat.

  • Middle-aged-diva

    The great thing about this newsletter and your work is that exposes the travel providers we won’t want to use. A great service.  Won’t be flying Malaysia Airlines. Or using Expedia, for that matter

  • Raven

    I’d get the local TV station’s consumer advocate involved in this one. Bad press goes a long way…

  • Joe Farrell

    this is pretty simple – what was the lowest coach fare that was available the day that the OP bought the business class ticket and the business class fare purchased . . . why is is this such a problem?  

    More facts are needed – was the $929 the ONE WAY fare or the RT fare?

    What was the lowest fare that could have been purchased?

    What is the justification for the computation of the revised fare?  We get some computation but there is no explanation of the numbers given so its just gobbledygook since without context its just numbers . . .

    She paid $929 for a fare – what were the taxes and extraneous fees on the ticket?

    Look, lets assume that half the fare went to the outbound = so now we are looking at $450 for the return piece in business class – the lowest fare that I see is about $445 in coach roundtrip – splitting it evenly – the difference in fare between coach and business looks to be about $225 one way – so – for crying out loud – take the $270 and be done with it. 

    People need to get a clue as to how math works – if she paid $929 and got one way in business class she is only entitled to the difference in fare for the other direction – what more does she want?  Does she even know?  Or is it some vague emotional they screwed me I want more just because?  Because that is not a valid reason to get more money –

  • irishani

    Expedia told my daughter who was stranded by Hurricane Ike (she had a connection in Houston) that once the trip began, there was nothing they could or would do for her.  Not helpful.  They eventually reimbursed her months later but she had to find a flight home on her own and pay for it. 

  • Josh

    I’ve started making printouts of the lowest cost option when I book something higher, whether car, airline, or hotel.  For example, I specifically reserved a convertible for our 10th anniversary in Las Vegas, but if they had been out of them I would have expected to downgrade all the way to a compact (which is all we really needed)…and get the best advance coupon price that I would have booked.

    Yes, the OP is due the difference to the lowest cost option they could have booked.  If there was no cheap economy one way, business the other fare, the only fair (!) thing to do is to use half what he paid plus half of the cheapest economy seat.

    I don’t see how Expedia can get out of this — if they charged the credit card, even if they sent the money to Malaysia, they are responsible for ensuring the product is delivered too — they should be refunding the difference, and can then pursue the airline.  It may be too late for a dispute, which is why they drag these out as long as they can.  It’s usually better to contest the charge, with documentation, as soon as possible, to cover yourself in case the company doesn’t issue a refund quickly.

  • Mark K

    This is an unfortunate situation for the passenger and a very bad publicity oportunity for the airline they way it is presented.  Even though I firmly believe the difference in the flight cost should be based on the original fare at the time the ticket was purchased, I know this is never going to happen.   If I was in this situation, I would take the latest offer and move on.
    A similar situation happened to me a few years ago.  I had a discounted 1st class ticket bought directly from the airline.  Not a coach upgrade, but one that was sold to me as 1st and got me seats in 1st.  When I arrived as the airport and attempted to print my boarding pass, I got a message that I had to see an agent.  I did and was told that due to weather at my destination, the flight I was scheduled to be on would probably be late and I would miss my onward connection.  As a “favor” to me I was being moved to an earlier flight that would guarantee making the onward connection.  The agent asked me for my seat preference and I said it didn’t matter as long as it was still in 1st.  She handed me a new boarding pass with the samne seat number for a different flight leaving very soon without further comment.  When I arrived at the gate I saw the plane was much smaller that the one I was supposed to be on.  Asking the gate agent about this, she chuckled and said “You are a standby customer, why do you expect to be in first because this seat isn’t.”  My first response was that I had bought a 1st seat and it was not a standby ticket.  Turns out the ticket counter agent changed me from a confirmed 1st passenger to standby when the flight change was done.  Questioning further did nothing but get the gate agent to say if I continued to bother her she would call the police.  I flew in the coach seat because at that point I had no other option.  Contacting the airline later their first response was that since I had a standby ticket I was “lucky” to get on a flight out of Vegas.  After several exchanges they finally admitted that I actually had originally had a 1st class ticket but since it was a super discounted ticket it allowed them to reassign me to any class they chose at check in and they owed me nothing.  Needless to say, I was hesitant to book any ticket on that airline for a very long time.

  • Tony A.

    A Class D – Restricted Business Class – ticket does cost $922 from Chennai (MAA) India to Kuala Lumpur (KUL), and back on Malaysian Air. See below:

     ADT01        25200       560.00       362.50            922.50
    *TTL          25200       560.00       362.50            922.50

    ADT MAA MH KUL 279.68MH MAA 279.68NUC559.36END ROE45.05MH XT
     TX 5.70WO 84.00JN 16.80MY 250.00YQ 6.00YR


    Now compare that with the *lowest* economy class fare.

     1  VLF3MIZ  R  200.00  9APR1   –    L30SEP    43  – – / 3M V 
     2  HBC6MIZ  R  244.00  9APR1   –    L30SEP    43  – – / 6M H 
     3  BST9MIZ  R  300.00  9APR1   –    L30SEP    43  – – / 9M B 
     4  UFX1YIZ  R  400.00  9APR1   –    L30SEP    43  – – /12M U 
     5  YFX1YIZ  R  538.00  9APR1   –    L30SEP    43  – – /12M Y 
    7  DBZ6MIZ  R  560.00  9APR1   –    L30SEP    43  – – / 6M D 

    Tickest cost of V-class (assuming space was available):
     ADT01         9000       200.00       275.70            475.70
    *TTL           9000       200.00       275.70            475.70
    ADT MAA MH KUL 99.88MH MAA 99.88NUC199.76END ROE45.05MH XT
     TX 5.70WO 17.20JN 16.80MY 230.00YQ 6.00YR

    So the largest difference would have been $446.80. But his dad only got downgraded on the return leg (not both ways) so only 1/2 of this is due as a refund (maximum). That is $223.40.

    I have no clue what booking class – seat was available at that time. But a quick check on MH fare rules shows that MH does not have advance purchase requirements (and no seasonality in fares, too). Today’s flight (it’s already Friday over there) is fully open on M class.

    81+190 = 271. So why is Singa asking for more? Where is $369 coming from?
    Maybe Elliott should ask complainers to do the math and post them before they complain any further.

    Case closed. Shut up and keep the money.

  • bodega

    Should Expedia have sided with the airline?  I am disappointed with the heading of this Chris and I am coming to the opinion that you refuse to learn how this industry operates, which you should do since your job seems to be  writing about travel.  Expedia can only do what the airline allows.  They contacted the carrier, they got a refund.  From what I read, and please clarify if this isn’t correct, the father’s biz class seat was a paid upgrade and this is the amount the carrier charged for the upgrade.

    To say that Expedia kept the money is false and a flat out lie.  The ticket was reported to ARC and the money is taken by ARC out of Expedias account or if by credit card passed on to the carrier.  Any commission if earned is retained but the carrier will send Expedia a debit memo for any that was are part of the upgraded cost that was refunded.

    PLEASE stop placing blame without knowing the facts!

  • bodega

    Expedia did their job.  They assisted after the fact, so yes, they did advocate for the client, as they should be expected to.  Do you work for a company and get paid?  Isn’t you job to make money for your company so they can pay you?

  • Tony A.

    I agree with you. Elliott should stop crying wolf too often without knowing at least some important facts (like examining the ticket and researching some fare rules). A lot of times Elliott seems to be throwing us bones so that some groupthink reaction will occur. But judging from some comments around here, he is likely to further damage the bad reputations of airlines and online travel agencies (e.g Expedia).
    Sometimes we also have to drag consumer through the coals when they make ridiculous complaints. Otherwise, it’s not fair and this site will become predominantly a whiners haven.

  • Tony A.

    Correction – today’s flight is fully open on H class (where there is a published fare). My bad. Sorry.

  • Crissy

    i also found the cost of this business ticket to be surprisingly low.  But it still sounds like he should have gotten more money back.  Expedia should have at least agreed to not agree with the airline.

  • Sriram Singa

    hi (sriram singa here),

    it was a (discounted) business class ticket, not an upgradable economy ticket.

  • Sriram Singa


    the breakdown was $657 + $272.70 taxes and fees. Booking class shows as D/J.

  • Sriram Singa


    It was a business class ticket, not a upgradeable economy.

  • Sershev

    I had purchased a business class ticket SJU-LAX on Delta with connections in ATL and SLC. When I was waiting for my connecting flight in ATL, a gate agent called my name and asked if I would afgree to go directly to ATL-LAX due to ATL-SLC flight was oversold. He didn’t offer any compensation and said that at the time he cannot assign seat on my new flight and I will get the seat assigned at the gate 45 minutes prior to departure flight to LAX and also I will arrive to LAX within few minutes earlier from what I was scheduled originally. I got my new sear request card and went to the new gate wait for my connecting flight. 45 minutes prior to departure I learned that there were not any available business class seats and I was automatically downgraded to coach. When I asked for refund of a difference Delta agent told me there is no refund since I booked discounted business class. I talked to a customer care representative and red coats and they all said the same: if you booked discounted business class and due to equipment changes or other irregularities you get downgrated to coach, there is no refund. I had option to go in coach or wait till the next flight to LA. I stayed and waited till the next flight, which was also delayed and after I got home I called Delta customer relations and they issued me $200 travel sertificate as a good will gesture for the inconvenience.

  • Sriram Singa


    First of all, its a “he” ;)

    $929 was the R/T fare. The lowest fare available would be on Air Asia for ~$200 R/T. ($929/2 – $200/2) = $364, which is what I was asking for, because had I know we were going to fly economy that is what I would have booked. Malaysia airlines has the highest economy class fares so it would seem to be in their best interset to book people into business and “downgrade” them. Also, please note that $190 was offered as a “goodwill” gesture, not as a refund, and for that I had to sign various legal documents.

  • bodega

    So it appears that the different between biz and coach is what you got refunded.

  • Sriram Singa


    I posted my math above, but I want to reiterate that I wouldn’t have *chosen* to fly ecomony with Malaysia airlines. If I wanted to fly ecomony, I would have bought Air Asia for $200 not Malaysia for $446 (which is the most expensive economy ticket available for this route).

    It seems to be in Malaysia Airline’s best interest to overbook into Business, then “downgrade” people and offer them a $81 refund (after making them jump through many hoops).

    Also, please note that the $190 was not a refund. It was a “goodwill” gesture for which I had to sign various legal documents which I’m not comfortable doing.

  • Sue K.

    This is very different, as you don’t get any compensation with weather from anyone (unless you purchase travel insurance separately). All their responsibilities are are to get you home safely, which they will do when they have the space.

  • Wrona

    Thanks for the math Tony.  I also want to know how he calculated the $369. 

  • Sriram Singa

    yes, biz for $929 and (according to their calculations, coach for $767 r/t or $848 one way biz and one way coach)

    I wouldn’t have paid $848 for one way biz / one way economy, so we’ll have to disagree here.

  • bodega

    You stated that it was an equipment change.  Was it to a plane that still had 3 class cabins?  Where there still the same amount of seats?  Often a down grade is due to going to a smaller planes, going from a 3 cabin plane to a two cabin plane.  What are the details?

  • Tony A.

    Mr. Singa – Air Asia Fares have absolutely nothing to do with Malaysian Air fares. No one forced you to buy MH tickets. They already refunded you more than the difference of their own fares. Why do you think you can compare fares of different airline when it comes to refunds? MH could not have known they were going to need to change the aircraft type ahead of time (at the time you bought the tickets). They were acting in good faith. Read your airline’s contract of carriage carefully. You claim is RIDICULOUS!

  • Sue K

    Delta and United (maybe others too) sell tickets that are ‘instant upgrades’ or something like this. They appear to be sold as a first class ticket, but they are really coach tickets with an instant upgrade. You keep your first class seat if there is space in first class, even if you change flights. However, if you switch flights for whatever reason, the upgrade depends on space, and if there is none, you get put in coach. If first class mattered to you, you could wait for a flight with space in first class, just as if you bought a full first class ticket.

  • flutie’s girl

    i have to agree with Tony A here. the other airlines’ fares have absolutely nothing to do with this case.  you should be basing it on Malaysia’s available fares at the time of purchase, nothing else.

  • flutiefan

    i had to laugh at “questioning further did nothing but get the gate agent to say if I continued to bother her she would call the police.” mostly because we do not do or say such things lightly.  my guess is that you were doing a heck of lot more than “questioning” and were becoming belligerent, abusive, and frightening. but i’m sure you don’t remember it or see it that way. LOL

  • Michael K

    Why do people believe the airline should be allowed to downgrade someone with no advance notice and with no reimbursement from the airline beyond the pro-rated difference in fares?  

    Shouldn’t this be treated more like a denied boarding situation?

    If a passenger knew in advance that they would not receive the service they paid for, then there’s reason to believe they may have made a different purchasing decision in the first place.

  • flutiefan

    he states above that he calculated it based on ANOTHER airline’s fares that he “would have” bought if the Malaysia tickets weren’t there. what a freaking joke!

  • flutiefan

    at first i thought Malaysia was doing some fuzzy math with Mr Singa. but after reading his own explanation (in the comments section) for how he came up with what he thought was the correct refund amount, i have to say that he is dead wrong. 
    how in the world can he justify using ANOTHER airline’s fares as the basis for his refund???  “I know i bought this FC ticket on Delta and you had to downgrade the aircraft and i was bumped to coach. i know your fare difference was $100.  but if i’d bought a ticket on Southwest, it would have been $300 cheaper, so now you really owe me $300.”  i mean, REALLY?  because that’s exactly what he is saying.

    Malaysia owes him the difference between a business class ticket and an economy class ticket, at the fare basis offered at the time of purchase, for this leg of the trip. nothing more, nothing less.  and it sounds like they have done that.
    his repeated claims that it’s a “gesture of goodwill” and “not a refund” don’t hold water with me. who cares if you have to sign something or what it’s called. you’re getting your money back, period, end of story.

    Expedia did all they could.  Case dismissed, as well it should be.

  • flutiefan

    “goodwill gesture”? so what! you’re getting the money back!

  • flutiefan

    because crap happens. and you don’t get compensated extra in life when things don’t go your planned way.

  • Sriram Singa

    They refunded $81, so I will disagree with you in that “they already refunded you more than the difference of their own fares)”.

    I can compare different airlines because they fly the same route and offer similar amenities. When I book, I have a choice where to book, and flying ecomony, would have chosen Air Asia.

  • DavidS

    Thanks! I am trying to duplicate the fare but am getting much cheaper fares. Even so, the difference bewteen the business class in the D/J as indicated and then D/B..where B is the cheapest coach … is about $245. (~$745 vs. ~$500 with taxes.)

    With all due respect, as others have indicated as well, the comparison to Air Asia is not relevant, even though I see your point.


  • Mark K

    The issue was that the ticket agent changed my flight from a confirmed 1st class to a standby class ticket, and I could not get ANY 1st class seat on ANY flight. I would have been happy to get back on the previous flight (that turned out was not delayed after all) but since the ticket I now had was a standby only ticket I could not.

    And this was not an instant upgrade.  It was a 1st class ticket (class F) that just happened to be part of a half price 1st sale that the airline was having.  I book the instant upgrade tickets when I can when where I sit doesn’t matter.  I buy 1st class tickets (in the airline’s F or equivalent class) when I want 1st. 

    The airline has since modified its standby process so that, until you actually board a different flight, your originally reserved flight and class is not lost.

  • bodega

    I certainly am not one to defend Expedia, but they did their job and got this gentleman the refund, so they did a decent job.

  • bodega

    Fares change daily so it is impossible for those of us who issued tickets to know what the difference was that the carrier based the refund amount on.  However, you were due the different in base fare between coach and biz.  It seems pretty close based on Tony’s post.

    What another carrier was charging has no bearing on your refund.  You picked the carrier and you must accept it.  Could of, should of doesn’t apply to your issue.

    I still await knowing the aircraft change and if it was from a 3 cabin configuration to a two cabin, hence the downgrade.  It happens a lot.  Even happened to my parents.

  • Tony A.

    You are not allowing them to refund the rest of the $271. They are willing to give you another 190 REFUND correct? Therefore it’s you who is not accepting the $271. So now you are parsing the English language. Disagree all you want. Good Luck taking them to small claims court.

  • Mark K

    Have you not had to deal with a 1st class passenger bumped into coach before?  Of course I was annoyed and was probably on the way to being angry.  But not angry at the gate agent.  I tried to ask questions and receive responses that made sense to me (which I guess was my first mistake in this situation).  She was busy getting other flights loaded and out of there and seemed annoyed even at my initial question about whether my new seat assignment was still in 1st or not.

    My exact question to her that prompted that response was “How can someone who purchased a 1st class seat not have priority over an upgrading coach passenger in this situation?” after she upgraded 3 people into 1st on the flight I was reassigned to.  I was standing at the gate counter trying to get an understanding of my situation and saw her exchange the boarding passes of those 3 coach customers for 1st seats.   Her entire response was “Who is seated where is not any of your business and who we decide to place in 1st is not any of your business.  I suggest you move away before I have to call someone like the police.”  She did later call me to the counter and offer to put me back on the original flight — in row 47 in a middle seat.  I declined that offer.

    I understand that the gate agents have a tough job.  It is not a job I would ever want to have and I completely repsect those who do this job for a living.  I try and be as understanding and polite as humanly possible at the airport because I know that being anything but polite never works.  But, when I am not getting what I paid for maybe my disappointment shows.

  • Tony A.

    Elliott, please – this is a joke. If you want us to take your cases seriously, you need to filter out frivolous complaints based on sound logic.

    This man is complaining because he believes he could have, should have, would have bought (supposedly) Air Asia business class tickets for flight between India and Malaysia HAD HE KNOWN that Malaysian Airlines WOULD move his father from business class to economy class BECAUSE OF AN FORESEEABLE FUTURE EVENT (e.g. equipment change).

    The goodwill offer (yes a refund) is more than enough.

  • bodega

    But you didn’t pick another carrier and you have to understand that you can only expect what the difference was between biz and coach with the carrier you father flew. 

  • MikeZ

    When “life happens” you may not have money fall out of the sky. this is a business and when a business cannot deliver on a product they have sold, compensation is required.

    I agree with him in that there is no reason not to sell business class tickets and bump people when your economy tickets are the most expensive out there. I also agree that had anyone known they would be in economy, they would have chosen the cheapest route. I don’t think he is being outrageous there. What I don’t know is the laws of the country where he may be able to file and if he could use that arguement.

  • Mark K

    Thanks for being here and providing the missing details. It helps understand the situation.

    I too have purchased tickets for flights on a specific airline because business or 1st seats were available at a good price over flying coach on other airlines at a lower price.  But doing so I also understand that I cannot expect more than the difference in that airline’s next lower class ticket price to be refunded to me if I end up in the lower class section for whatever reason.  I chose that airline and I have to accept the fares they offer.  The fact that you could have gotten a coach seat on a diffrent airline for a much lower price is irrelevant.

    I was bumped down once on Lufthansa and they were generous enough to refund a full 50% of the original ticket price and gave me a free coach flight voucher.  But I did not ask for this and the fact that they issued this refund surprised me.  By doing so they have gained a permanent customer who chooses them over any other airline if they fly where I am going.

  • ClareClare

    Wow, considering that you weren’t even there, and don’t know Mark K., it’s appalling to read that you “had to laugh” at him.  It would be almost fun to be in a court case against somebody with your attitude.  “I wasn’t there, Your Honor, but I know that he must have been belligerent and abusive, and frightening, because we do not do or say such things, even though I have no idea who the ‘we’ was.”  The next person to laugh would be the judge–and not at Mark K., either. 

  • Douglas

    Tom’s comment may be the exact reverse. Asian companies, particularly the most reputable, are usually the most well-behaved. Malaysia’s behavior in this case is really what I would expect of many western carriers.

  • Tony A.

    Mr Singa,
    Re your statement – It seems to be in Malaysia Airline’s best interest to overbook into
    Business, then “downgrade” people and offer them a $81 refund.
    You seem to be suggesting that Malaysia Airlines is running a scam. Do you have any evidence that the flight was overbooked or that the equipment change that happened that day was bogus? Do you really think it is cheaper for airlines to reposition/replace aircrafts (be it a smaller plane), move business class passengers to economy and game the refund? Have you any evidence that shows the Malaysian Airlines does this behavior regularly?
    IMO the reason why they want a customer to sign what sounds like a “quit claim” is because they probably fear they are dealing with a “trouble maker”.
    I hope you can back up what sounds to me as an incredible allegation.

  • Douglas

    The only other comment I would make, and this may not have made a difference in the present case, I would never book travel — particularly international travel — through an on-line agency. These companies are in the business to take your money and run, and if you ever encounter any kind of difficulty with an airline or other kind of  travel company, you’re on your own. It is rare that any of these cut-rate operations who claim to get great prices — which they do — will go to bat in any serious way for their customers.They might make one appeal and tell the customer that the response is final. Nothing beats a regular travel professional who cultivates relationships with his/her clients and who has booking clout with the principals. They work for their clients, the airlines, cruise lines, hotel companies know who the good ones are by the volume they generate, and go out of their way to be sure that their best agents’ clients do not get dumped on.

  • Tony A.

    Correction – would have bought Air Asia ECONOMY class ticket (not business class).

    That said, his dad flew and enjoyed Business Class for MAA to KUL.
    But the chap doesn’t want to pay for it since he is demanding a refund.
    Sound’s to me like a cheat.

  • emanon256

    I agree, you can’t compare this airline’s prices to another airline’s prices.  However in my opinion, they should refund the different between discount business and discount economy, and it sounds like they are only refunding the difference between discount business and full fare economy.  Unfortunately that is probably in their contract of carriage.  If the extra good will money they are offering is a cash refund, I would take it and call it good.  I think that’s the best you will get.

  • Sriram Singa

    When they refunded the $81 they simply credited the credit card. For this “goodwill gesture” I am required to sign legal documents. You may be comfortable signing legal documents without counsel, I, however, am not. Thanks for you good luck, I appreciate it.

  • DavidS

    Airline seats are not a commodity, passengers tend to have a degree of brand loyalty. This is also how they want to position themselves. You may have chosen to fly Air Asia if you had chosen coach, but, in the end, you chose Malaysian Business Class.

    By comparison, some people choose to fly Southwest, but when they cancel a flight you won’t be put on another carrier to get to your destination as a legacy carrier would do. This is another example of the choice you make when choosing an airline.

    It seems as if the OP got the $ owed, but the struggle to achieve it tells me something about Malaysian Airlines. When Malaysian had an irregularity, they downgraded your father to coach and refunded the difference…but it was not easy.

    I am not a fan of online booking websites that claim to be travel agents, but Expedia seemed to go to bat for him to get what was owed, but not much else. because of the hoops jumped through, I do think Malaysian could have sweetened the deal with a further discount off a future flight.

  • Wrona

    Yeah I see that now.  How stupid! 

  • Sriram Singa

    Hi DavidS,

    Put another way, I specifically *did not* choose Malaysia Economy, which is what they put my father in.

    As for Expedia, I don’t feel they really went to bat for me. Expedia basically just regurgated whatever Malaysia told them (which, initially, included telling me I had to go to their ticket office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ;)) I was the one what had to independently contact Malaysia Airlines, with no help from Expedia.

  • Sriram Singa

    Hi Michael and Mike,

    Yes that’s it exactly! Thanks for understanding my point.

  • bodega

    “I reject any goodwill in this offer as this is a refund that is owed to me, and also still less than the minimum that I feel is due,”
    This is like saying you bought a pair of pants at Macy’s and they ripped at the seams the first time you wore them, so you want your money back and more because you could have bought the pants at Sears for less.

    You got what is due to you, so either take it or forgetaboutit.  Believe me, we are lucky you booked online as you would be fired from our agency as a client!

  • DavidS

    OK…I thought Expedia was helpful in getting the balance owed. I take back my comment about how an online ticketing website behaved like a Travel Agent! :)

    From what I can see, based on Malaysian’s current fare differences between advance Business and advance Coach, you did get what was owed you. I would have expected another voucher for a future credit to keep your business, especially for a premium cabin traveler, but apparently Malaysian is not interested in that. That’s their call.

    You state you specifically did not choose Malaysian Economy…but you DID choose Malaysian Airlines. They had an irregularity to their schedule and had to downgrade your father. They will use their pricing to determine the difference, not another airlines.

    Another analogy, If I reserved a Luxury car at Hertz and they only had a minivan, I would expect a discount. The reality is they probably aren’t going to match another company’s rate that I could have gotten on a minivan at the time I booked.

  • bodega

    And the carrier didn’t expect to have to do an aircraft change.  Things happen and did your father arrive safely at his destination?  THAT should be your first concern!  You picked the carrier and all they have to do is get the passenger to the destination or refund your money. 

  • flutiefan

    “appalling”? methinks you’re reading a little too much into it. i was given a chuckle, because i constantly hear customers try to claim that they were calm and polite, when i know damn well they were anything but. it was a harmless giggle, ClareClare. lighten up!

  • Michael K

    Actually, it’s more like you bought the $50 pair of pants, and they decided instead to send you the $30 pair that you didn’t want or ask for.  And to add insult to injury, they insist that they don’t even so much as owe you the $20 difference unless you sign a legal document.

  • Michael K

    And I forgot to add one more part– that so-called $30 pair is available for $18 at a competitor.

  • Michael K

    “Things happen” 
    —You could use exactly the same line of reasoning to argue that airlines should be allowed to delay you indefinitely for reasons within their control — or even involuntarily bump you — without compensation.

  • bodega

    I agree, the initial amount was insulting and wrong, but it has been righted…or so it seems without knowing exactly the fare of coach.

  • Michael K

    Actually my analogy refers to the final offer, not the initial offer.  The initial offer was like offering $5 compensation for sending you the $30 pair of pants instead of the $50 pair.

  • Sue K

    But if you go standby, by definition you don’t have a seat assignment. So how can you expect them to have a seat for you?

  • Sue K.

    And how is this relevant at all?

  • Sriram Singa

    I see this as them basically overbooking business class. When airlines overbook due to circumstances under their control (including mechanical issues), you are due compensation.

    This is straight from the DOT:

    The denied boarding compensation is essentially a payment for your

    So when airlines overbook and tell you to take the 3am flight, you are due compensation for your inconvenience.

    In this case, I am not even asking for compensation, but a fair refund. A fair refund for them seems to be $81. 

  • bodega

    You got more than $81.

    You father wasn’t denied boarding and you haven’t answered the question as to the change in aircraft.  Was it a smaller plane and now a different configuration?

  • SallyLu

    You read wrong.  The OP clearly states in several comments that he purchased a discounted business class ticket – not an upgraded economy ticket.  I believe the refund they offered him was the difference between the ticket he bought at the walk up price for a one way coach ticket.  Expedia contacted the carrier only after the airline offered the OP the $81 refund and the additional “good will gesture”.  It would be good if someone who is shouting that blame shouldn’t be placed without knowing the facts actually read through the comments to see if there were any facts revealed in the discussion. 
    One thing that Chris has repeatedly said is that he is often presented these cases without all of the facts.  He is asking us to offer our opinions based on the facts given.  And every time there is someone who crys that there aren’t enough facts.  This isn’t life and death people.  This is a consumer advocate who is just trying to do the right thing, and sometimes he isn’t sure if, for instance, this guy got enough of a refund, based on the info at hand and he asks our opinion. 

  • bodega

    It has been clarifed now, but it was clear in the beginning.

    You can’t do the right thing and present something when you show a bias. 

  • Sriram Singa

    I think this is a good analogy. At the time of booking the had the least expensive business class tickets and the *most expensive* economy class tickets.

  • DavidS

    It is not an overbooking issue. It is called an IROP—Irregular Operation. Probably due to a mechanical issue, the aircraft that was planned to be used was substituted by another. They could have cancelled the flight entirely, but chose to use a different aircraft that had a different configuration. This allowed the flight to operate as scheduled, or as close as possible to it, and impacted the fewest passengers.

    (But it IS interesting how the rental companies and hotels are not subject to the same overbooking rules as airlines.)

    I don’t have access to past fares, but current fares show you have received the value of the difference between coach on Malaysian and first class. The difference between coach on Air Asia and Malaysian is about $40 one way.

    The website you bought a ticket from did not assist you. Malaysian should probably have refunded the difference in fare between the business class fare you paid and the advance coach fare available at the time of booking. They did, but not without a fight…shame on them.

    The goodwill should have been extended to the traveller in the form of a future travel credit, over and above the refund for downgrading, that would be significantlyhigher than the $40 difference between airlines, to entice him to fly the Malaysian Airlines again. This they did not appear to do, but are certainly under no obligation to.

    Just curious, Jet Airways and Malaysian are codeshare partners, regardless of what the ticket says, was you father booked on an actual Malaysian operated aircraft or a Jet Airways plane?

  • Sriram Singa

    To clarify they have only refunded $81, which they refunded to the credit card I used. To get the additional “gesture of good will”, I will be required to sign various legal documents which I do not feel comfortable doing.

    It was a Malaysia Airlines flight, operated by Malaysia Airlines.

  • emanon256

    Except he wasn’t denied boarding.  An abnormality occurred which resulted in an equipment swap.  They may have had to deny some people boarding, but they still got this passenger home.
    What you didn’t see happen is the gate agents scrambling to make sure the full fare business passengers stayed in business, the discount business passengers still got a seat in coach, the full fare coach passengers got to stay as well, and then they did have to re-book some of the discount fare coach passengers.
    Stuff happens, and the airline albeit in their second offer, offered more than fare compensation.

    If you were hosting a party and a tree fell on your house just before they got there, would your guests expect you to compensate them for not canceling the party in advance?

  • Mark K

    True.  But, the ticket counter agent changed my paid for and confirmed 1st class ticket into a standby ticket.   I did not request that and did not realize that is what was done.  The original ticket was not for standby.

    After changing my original ticket class to to standby, she issued a boarding pass with a seat assignment because they were clearing their standby list.  The assigned class of the resulting ticket was a special class that related back to the standby status that the original ticket was changed to.  This newly assigned class then prevented me from getting a 1st class seat or any other type of seat on any other flight because a standby ticket is only allowed to standby for coach seats. 

    As mentioned above, this airline has modified their procedures so that a similar situation is not supposed to occur any more.

  • Joe Farrell

    Sriram – seems like you should be getting about $271 – which is what they offered you.    This is a legal damages issue – not a ‘wish he could have flown business class’ issue.   Your legal damages are the difference in fare between what you paid and what you got.  File a claim with your credit card company for the additional $190 and thats it – ok?  You don’t want to sign any papers, fine – you will sign them for the credit card company. Do you want to sign papers to file a claim or sign papers to get money? I know which papers I’d sign . ..

  • Tony A.

    Mr Singa,
    Why are you quoting the US DOT? The tickets you bought were between India and Malaysia. Neither the origin, not the destination is in the USA. Those DOT rules do not apply.
    This is the same convoluted logic again. You want to use other airlines fares (e.g. Air Asia) for a different class (Economy) to apply for refund in a completely different airline (Malaysian) and class (Business).
    Now you want to apply US rules for a flight from India to Malaysia.
    And by they way, YOU are not even the passenger. You are simply a third party payer. I’m not sure what your “legal” standing is since you are not the passenger.
    Just take their offer before you get nothing.

  • emanon256

    When Elliott posts a story about the airlines, people get furious and say that they are due compensation.  People discuss other topics back and forth.  But the second an airline is involved, people get so adamant that no matter what the customer is right and the airline is evil and owes them. Why does everyone think the airlines owe them so much compensation? 
    Airlines can you from point A, to point B, 1,500 miles away, in about 4 hours.  That amazes me!  Driving from A to B would take days and in some cases driving is not even possible.  Yet if there is a small delay, or an equipment swap done to keep everyone safe, or g-d forbid, weather.  Suddenly the airline owes everyone unreasonable money.
    Why do people hate airlines is much and think they owe them something.  When my flight got canceled and I was stranded overnight, I still got home faster than I would have if I were driving.  Go airlines!  When I was in the exact same situation as today’s story, got downgraded from Business to Economy, I still got home on-time.  Hey, at least they got me home.  Although, United did refund the difference up front.
    Airlines may be making revenue on their new fees, but revenue does not mean profit.  The airlines are still making very little profit, and providing an amazing service! While there are problems from time to time, they do a darn good job 99% of the time.
    I do not work for an airline, nor have I ever worked for an airline.  But in my book they are pretty good.  If you want to complain about someone ripping people off, complain about an oil company or an insurance company, they are all making record profits at the expense of people.  If anyone owes us compensation it’s them.

  • Michael K

    The similarity to denied boarding is that the airline could not honor the service that the passenger paid for and put the passenger in a “take it or leave it” situation with no good recourse.  And unless you know something that hasn’t been mentioned here, the airline has STILL NOT offered to  compensate the OP for the fare difference without inappropriate strings attached.

    [BTW, if I was charging guests from out of town in advance to attend a party, and I turned them away at the door upon arrival, then yes they probably would be entitled to some compensation beyond the return of their original payments.  (Although a falling tree is a bad example to use because I believe an airline would call that a weather event or force majeure)]

  • Michael K

    I assume the next time you buy something online, you won’t have any objection if the merchant instead sends you a cheaper item that you didn’t want?  And moreover it doesn’t matter at all that this merchant charges more than everyone else for the cheaper item?

  • cjr001

    “Why do people hate airlines is much and think they owe them something.”

    Because if I break the contract with an airline, I’ll pay. It shouldn’t be that if the airline breaks the contract with me, I’ll also have to pay.

  • Tony A.

    Mr. Singa,
    You might want to read the Contract of Carriage of Malaysian Airlines, particularly the part that deals with SCHEDULES, DELAYS AND CANCELLATION OF FLIGHTS. See below:

    10.1 SCHEDULES
    We undertake to use our best efforts to carry you and your Baggage with reasonable dispatch. In case of re-timing of schedule, we will notify you in advance of your journey. Although we undertake to use our best efforts to adhere to our timetables and published schedules, we do not guarantee that your flight will depart and arrive at the times set forth in our timetables and schedules. Furthermore, our timetables and published schedules shall form no part of your contract with us. Please refer to Paragraph 11.3 regarding refunds in such situations.
    10.2.1 If due to circumstances beyond our control, including but not limited to adverse weather or airtraffic control delays, we cancel or delay a flight; are unable to provide previously confirmed space; fail to stop at your Stopover or destination point; or cause you to miss a connecting flight on which you hold a reservation, we shall, at your option, either:
    (a) carry you on another of our scheduled services on which space is available;
    (b) within a reasonable period of time re-route you to the destination indicated on your Ticket or applicable portion of your Ticket by our own scheduled services or the scheduled services of another Carrier, or by means of surface transportation. If the sum of the fare, excess Baggage charge and any applicable service charge for the revised routing is higher than the refund value of the Ticket, or applicable portion of the Ticket, we will collect no additional fare or charge from you, and will refund the difference if the fare and charges for the revised routing are lower; or
    (c) make a refund in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 11.3.
    10.2.2 Except as provided in this Article, we will have no liability to you if your flight is cancelled or delayed due to causes beyond our control. If cancellation or delay is due to adverse weather or to air traffic control delays, we shall be under no immediate obligation to comply with Paragraph 10.2.1 or to provide for the cost of telephone calls, accommodation, refreshments or transportation although we shall make reasonable efforts to assist you as best we can in the prevailing circumstances.
    If the delay or cancellation is due to circumstances within our control, we shall pay you compensation in the amount that would be due as denied boarding compensation in accordance with our Regulations.
    We reserve the right to substitute an alternative Carrier and/or aircraft.
    10.5.1 If we are unable to provide previously confirmed space, we shall compensate and assist Passengers denied boarding in accordance with applicable law and our denied boarding compensation policy.
    10.5.2 Flights from airports in the European Community (N/A)

    If we cancel a flight, fail to operate a flight reasonably according to schedule, fail to stop at a point to which you are destined or ticketed for a Stopover, are unable to provide previously confirmed space, or cause you to miss a connecting flight on which you hold a reservation pursuant to Article 10.2.1, the amount of the refund shall be:
    (a) if no portion of the Ticket has been used, an amount equal to the fare paid; or
    (b) if a portion of the Ticket has been used, the one way fare from point of interruption to the destination or the Stopover, by the same percentage discount, if any, as is reflected in the original fare purchased; or the difference between the fare paid and the fare for the transportation used, whichever is higher.

    Bottom line, Mr. Singa, unless you can dig up India or Malaysia Aviation/Consumer laws that will supersede the above contract of carriage, your father is entitled to a refund in the amount computed in Section 11.3.

    I really can’t see how you can demand being paid the difference of what you paid Malaysian and what you said you would have paid if you bought Air Asia tickets. It just doesn’t work that way (even in India and Malaysia).
    Good Luck.

  • emanon256

    And in what way has the airline broken the contract?  It did exactly as the contract said it would.

  • Dunlow

    I don’t think that trying anything in a US court would help… Either in Malaysia (where the airline is based) or where the ticket is to/from would be the only ‘logical’ places that you could take legal action considering that all of this took place outside the US. The fact that a US based credit card was used in the US would only work when disputing something with the credit card company in all likelihood.

  • Swishy

    When a gate agent (or anyone) says that they will call the police if you don’t leave them alone, that usually means that you have done something to really p*ss them off… Even more than the usual complaints that they get all the time.

  • Crunchy

    Well, just get a refund from the merchant and go somewhere else then. Problem is, once you get on the plane and agree to fly in economy, you lose a lot of your bargaining power. If first class is that important, the least you could do is argue to take the next flight where there is space in first.

  • Michael K

    He paid for a business class ticket and he was not allowed a seat in business class.

    If that’s not a breach of the terms of purchase, then what would ever be? 

    If you insist that all passengers are paying for is transportation from point A to point B, then I suppose bumping passengers and getting them to their destination safely by bus & boat would be okay too?

  • Michael K

    “Well, just get a refund from the merchant and go somewhere else”—Sorry, this merchant isn’t willing to give you a refund.  If you really twist their arm for a while, maybe they’ll offer you a goodwill credit but only if you first sign some legal paperwork.
    ====”If first class is that important, the least you could do is argue to take the next flight where there is space in first. ”

    How do you know the passenger didn’t explore that?

    And how much do you want to bet that the airport agent who refused to refund him one dime for the downgrade wouldn’t have offered anything to offset meals or hotel expenses incurred until the next flight (if they even had seats available and were willing to put him on the next flight)?
    And why do you condone the airline putting a passenger on the spot to make a rushed decision like that under duress?

  • Carver

    Logic isn’t the issue.  The issue is jurisdiction.  If the OP was in the US when he purchased the ticket and used a US credit card, then he has a very strong argument that the transaction took place in the US which is what is needed to a US court to exert jurisdiction. 

  • Michael K

    Sounds like 10.5.1 should apply:
    If we are unable to provide previously confirmed space, we shall compensate and assist Passengers denied boarding in accordance with applicable law and our denied boarding compensation policy.

    And even if you’re going by 11.3, there is nothing which says that you have to sign additional legal paperwork and potentially give up additional rights before you can see any refund you are due.

  • Carver


    I have seen gate agents get upset over nothing.  I was on a flight where the last person on was in the Exit row. Her oversized bag couldn’t fit in the bin, and the flight was about to be late.  For some reason the gate agent boarded the flight. She picked on what she believed was the wimpiest looking man and demanded that he let the the lady put her bag under the seat in front of him.  When the man refused, the GA went ballistic and threatened to kick him off the plane.  The FA intervened and worked it all out.

  • Carver

    That’s an easy one.  Airlines have the harshest, most draconian rules of any consumer oriented industry that I can think of with the possible exception of cruises.

    The CoCs were clearly written my sadistic attorneys.  The product is usually non-refundable and non-transferable, and unlike most goods and services, the airlines can dictate to you how to use the product, e.g. no back to back or hidden city tickets.

    Talk back to a TA, GA, or FA and they’ll call the cops on you.

    Basically, unless you are a fat cat, you are the airline’s b* when flying. 

    That’s why the knee jerk reaction against airlines.

    Any questions?

  • Eric

    I haven’t used an online travel site in over 10 years.  I see no reason to start now.

  • Guest

    Then you’ll have to decide which is more important: signing those legal documents and get the additional “goodwill gesture” refund, or just simply take the $81, chalk it up to experience, spread your story as much as you want to, and move on.

  • Guest

    “Funny, I thought travel agents — online and otherwise — were there to advocate for you, not the airline.”

    That probably depends how one defines “advocate for you”, Chris. Does that mean working to resolve an issue to both parties’ satisfaction? Getting a desired result for somebody no matter what, even if it’s subjectively and arguably wrong? What precisely?

    If your travel provider made an arguably sincere and exhaustive effort to look after your interests, but sadly didn’t get any subjectively satisfactory solution for you, then that’s NOT advocating either? Because if that isn’t, then how about those people you intervened for with their respective issues that didn’t pan out?

    Then again, in fairness, you’re not exactly a travel agent either. You just happen to know and write about this aspect of travel. :)

  • Tony A.

    His father actually made the flight, albeit on a different section of the aircraft. The previous section 10.4 clearly allows the carrier to substitute aircraft (which may or may not have the same business class configuration). Note that Singa’s father did not make the assertion that his seat was given up to other passengers (he wasn’t bumped from the flight). He just got a cheaper seat and is due a refund of the difference in fares.

    The issue is the valuation of the difference in fares. The original valuation was scandalous – $81; and the behavior of the airline (giving Singa the runaround) was abysmal. But by using a consumer advocate (Elliott), the passenger was able to get a settlement agreement for an additional $190. They key word(s) is settlement agreement – and that usually requires a quit and final claim waiver.

    I tried (above) to value the maximum difference (one way) between a D class Restricted Business Class Fare and the lowest possible economy class fare. It turned out to be $223.40. But as we all know, when schedules get screwed up, airlines simply reissue a ticket using the least restrictive (expensive) class and leave the passenger to argue later. The reason they give is that they just want to get the passenger to their destination as quickly as possible.

    I guess (note just guess) that Mr. Singa’s father was rebooked at U class ($160 difference in roundtrip fare), hence the first refund of $81 (for the difference in one-way fares). So technically the airline believes it is correct – Singa’s Dad was rebooked at an expensive economy class. However, this refund does not seem fair since it was possible that a lower economy class seat could have been available at the time of the original booking. Hence this point (amount of refund) was the basis of Elliott’s entry to this case.

    So now the airline is offering $190 to settle the dispute if the customer signs what appears to be a quit claim (settlement agreement). Elliott has done his work. But the customer is still not happy and is rejecting the agreement. Yes, there will be paperwork in a settlement agreement.  Too bad for the customer he does not understand legalese. Also he wants more money! He says he could have bought a cheaper ticket in Air Asia (coach) if he knew that his father would have been “downgraded”. He further asserts that Malaysian Airlines knowingly overbooks in Business Class and then
    “downgrades” the passengers. In other words, the airlines “plans” to pocket the difference is fares (sounds like fraud to me).  Okay, I think most of us here has had enough of this. There is a difference between being ignored and being ignorant.

  • emanon256

    Sometimes things happen, a plane breaks, there is weather.  According to the Air Traffic Controls website there are 30,000 flights each day in the US alone.  That is some serious chorography to make everything perfect, and like all other businesses, nothing will ever be perfect. There will always be a few problems here and there, and it feels like everyone expects the airlines to always be 100% perfect.  I started reading Elliott because I was upset with the airlines, and reading everyone’s comments and how much they hate airlines makes me suddenly appreciate the airlines for all of their hard work and how well they do most of the time.
    Their contract of carriage says that if they are unable to fly him in the class, they will issue a refund of the difference.  So I don’t see any breach occurring. I do think the airline was wrong in their initial refund, and I too think they sometimes jerk people around.  However I really don’t think it’s as bad as people make it sound.  They probably provided proper service to thousands of passengers, and just had a very small few who were disservice.
    I never said bus or boat would be okay.  However if a plane breaks and a passenger gets stuck over night and is put on a flight the next day, it’s still faster than driving.  I am okay with that.
    Did the offer Mr. Singas father the opportunity to wait for another flight with Business?  That has been my experience.  Several times while I was flying and had used miles to upgrade to fist class the same thing happened.  When I got to the airport they told me that they are very sorry, the plane had to go to service, and it was substituted with a plane with fewer first class seats.  Each time they gave me a choice to fly coach, or wait for a later flight that had seats in first class.  One time I waited, the other times I took the coach seat and was refunded my upgrade miles.

  • emanon256

    Yes their rules are very one sided, but again, if someone chooses to fly, they are choosing to agree to those rules.  I just read my new virus scan software terms and conditions and found it to be just as one sided. 
    Airlines in the US are barely making any money at all, and it’s these rules that are preventing them from going bankrupt again.  We can choose to fly and agree, or we can choose not to.  But I don’t see why people should be complaining when they are agreeing to such rules.  I can only afford discount tickets, so I know full well that there are fees if I change, and no refunds.  That’s a risk I agree to take when I fly.
    If airline profits were soaring, and they were rolling in our money, I could see much more justification for these complaints.  But as long as people keep demanding super discounted tickets, and the airlines are willing to keep providing service with such a narrow margin, things are going to stay the way they are.

  • cjr001

    “Sometimes things happen, a plane breaks, there is weather.”

    Sometimes things happen, a car breaks down, a child falls ill.

    Yet, we’re not afforded the same leverage, because the contract is entirely one-sided in favor of the airline. And that is a problem.

  • Michael K

    I suppose you are another person who would not object if the next time you purchased something, the merchant unilaterally substituted an inferior product you didn’t ask for?  And it wouldn’t even bother you if the merchant charged more for the inferior product than any of their competitors?

  • Michael K

    The problem is that the passenger effectively experienced a bait and a switch.  I doubt there was any fraudulent intent by the airline (w.r.t. the equipment change), but that’s irrelevant.  The merchant shouldn’t be rewarded as a result of that scenario.

    Furthermore, as you’ve acknowledged, the airline repeatedly failed to interpret it’s own contract of carriage (which is already heavily tilted in it’s favor) in a reasonable fashion.  And they still won’t honor their contract of carriage unequivocally– they want to attach additional strings.  You might think signing legal papers is no big deal, but there is no contractual basis to demand that the passenger do so.

    And it would be a slightly different situation if they offered the passenger a $271 refund on the spot, but they did not.  They deferred him to the travel agent, ignored him, and later demanded that he travel halfway around the world to visit their central office in person to solve the problem.

  • bodega

    I find it quite telling that Mr Singa has not address the question, which has been presented to him more than once, regarding the type of aircraft change.  Based on that, my guess is that there were less seats in biz class to reaccommodate everyone and if the father was not a frequent flyer of the carrier, he had less seniority/priority or his ticket was purchased later than others, since various means can be used to place passengers, and the father was moved to coach. No bait and swtich as someone suggested. He should take the money offered and move on.

  • Michael K

    How many people remember the exact model of aircraft they flew on, and why does it matter?He purchased a ticket for a confirmed seat in business class and he did not receive the product he paid for.  He did not buy a raffle ticket where odds are subject to the number of entrants.

  • bodega

    It makes a difference in this case Michael.  If they had to bring in a new plane and it could not hold the same numbers in biz as before, they have to downgrade some of the passengers.  They don’t necessarily has similar aircraft available, but if they do, they would have brought it in and the father would have had his biz class seat.  Been there with both scenarios.  I think this missing detail is important.

  • Michael K

    Irrelevant– this is the airline’s internal operational problem.

    It doesn’t mean they can unilaterally deny customers what they paid for and dictate unreasonable “take it or leave it” terms.

    One of the things they could have (and probably should have) done is asked for volunteers to be downgraded and made it worth those passengers’ while.

  • Guest

    “Yet, we’re not afforded the same leverage, because the contract is entirely one-sided in favor of the airline. And that is a problem.”

    Actually if you look around, many providers’ contracts essentially put them in a stronger position over their customers. Web site hosting, ISPs, merchant services, you name it.

  • bodega

    This is an international carrier operating outside of the US.  Your rights and how they may operate can be different than what you get here in the US. Normally, the carrier will ask, but if no one give up their seats, then they get to decide how to deal with it.  The bottom line is, if there were less seats, someone was going to be moved.  Remember that often in other countries, flights don’t operate daily like they do here.  Sometimes you have to take what is provided or wait days.

  • flutiefan

    what in the world does that have to do with this case? he bought a Malaysia ticket, he should be comparing Malaysia prices.
    seems you are still a bit stung over that other post i made…

  • flutiefan

    there are 2 sides to the “contract” when you’re ticketed by an airline. one is the airline’s side, the other is yours.  they have an obligation to get you from Point A to Point B, as stated above.  there are contingencies in place if they are unable to do so, including denied boarding compensation, full refunds on a cancelled flight, and differences in fare class when you’re downgraded.  the passenger’s side of the contract states they will take this flight at this time from this city to that city, for an a
    greed upon set price, takin
    g alon
    g a pre-determined maximum amount of items, described in # of suitcases and wei
    ght of said pieces.

  • flutiefan

    (sorry, inadvertently posted too soon)

    there are 2 sides to the “contract” when you’re ticketed by an airline. one is the airline’s side, the other is yours. 

    they have an obligation to get you from Point A to Point B, as stated above.  there are contingencies in place if they are unable to do so, including denied boarding compensation, full refunds on a cancelled flight, and differences in fare class when you’re downgraded.  these are the compensations given to the passenger when “things happen”.

    the passenger’s side of the contract states the designated person

    will take this flight at this time from this city to that city, for an agreed upon set price, taking along a pre-determined maximum amount of items, described in # of suitcases and weight of said pieces. if the passenger fails to adhere to their side of the contract, contingencies are again in place: paying a fare difference and change fee to go on a different flight, losing the monetary value of the ticket for no-shows, altering the name of the traveler.

    why should the airline pay when “things happen” to the customer?  in these instances, they are upholding their end of the deal, ready to fly that customer to their destination. it’s not their fault a kid is sick or you got a flat tire.  they already pay when “things happen” to them, as stated above. you’ll get a refund on your weather-cancelled flight. they lost money on that then you’ll ever know.

    I’m tired of explaining things to people who only have a narrow view of the world, and can’t see the forest for the trees.

  • flutiefan

    contrary to your belief, most of us do not call the cops just because someone is “talking back” to us. if that were the case, i’d have them on speed dial, or attached to my hip.

  • flutiefan

    you and Tony A are the ones making the most sense on here. thank goodness for you both!

  • Michael K

    We have a pretty good idea that they didn’t extend any offers because they offered this passenger $0 at the time and told him to take a hike and contact his travel agent.If you’re suggesting that under Malaysian or Indian law, a merchant may be able to impose an inferior product unilaterally without consequence, then the burden should be on you to demonstrate that this is actually the case.  (BTW, Expedia’s involvement might mean that US law has some bearing here).

  • Tony A.

    Michael, where is the bait and switch? This is an IROPS, an unforeseeable event – equipment change. The only issue here is HOW MUCH SHOULD BE REFUNDED since Mr. Singa’s father did not get to fly on Business Class as a result of the equipment change. The airline first refunded him $81. [To me that didn’t look fair. I made the computations and posted it here (read above). But that is only my opinion.] So Singa disputes the refund amount and gets an ombudsman. The airline offers another $190 but wants a release (I assume it is a release since I have not read the document). Singa does not want to sign the release. So now the parties are deadlocked. Next step for Singa is to try to get a court judgement since the parties cannot settle.  I don’t understand what the big deal is releasing the airline for more responsibility if Singa can get more than the difference of business class and economy ticket? What other responsibility does the airline still have? There’s always 2 sides in a dispute and if they cannot agree then so be it. You can read it as bad faith on behalf of the airline. Some can read it as hardheadedness by Singa. Let the judge decide.

    BTW, I’m not even sure where the venue would be. Can you go to small claims court in Texas for a ticket bought for travel between India and Malaysia where the passenger is not even in the USA (I think his father is in India)? Maybe Judge Judy’s court will be better.

  • cjr001

    “these are the compensations given to the passenger when “things happen”.”

    Apparently not as often as they should be, considering Elliott’s line of work and this article in particular.

  • Michael K

    “what in the world does that have to do with this case?”Everything.  Can you explain how this is different from a restaurant saying: “Sorry, we’re out of a filet mignon.  But here’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead.  What?  You say that you would rather have gotten a peanut butter jelly sandwich across the street where they charge half as much as we do?  Not our problem.”

  • Michael K

    “Michael, where is the bait and switch? ”

    Consumer purchased X (from merchant that offered the best price for X) and instead received Y (from merchant that offered the worst price for Y).

  • flutiefan

    yes, out of the 30,000 flights that are operated each DAY, the 3 stories Chris prints a week are SOOOOO telling.

  • flutiefan

    you’re laughable.

  • Guest

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t bait and switch where you purchase W at price X, W isn’t actually available, then they try to sell you similar W or Y but at a higher price Z?

  • MeanMeosh

    “Did the offer Mr. Singas father the opportunity to wait for another flight with Business?  That has been my experience.”

    Doesn’t really work on flights to and from India, because often the flights don’t operate daily.  The flight from MAA to KUL used to only run 3x or 4x/week (not sure if that’s still the case), so depending on when his original flight was, he might have been stuck in Kuala Lumpur for a few days to wait for another biz class flight.

  • cjr001

    If you’re naive enough to believe that these are the only 3 situations a week that occur… But they’re not.

    And it’s been evident for a long time that the airlines have no interest in fixing things on their end.

  • flutiefan

    i am not “naive”, and i realize there are more than 3 people who contact Chris per week.  however, out of the hundreds of thousands of passengers who fly every week, even getting 50 complaints a week is miniscule. this is NOT a widespread problem.

    furthermore, would you people please stop saying “THE AIRLINES”?!?!  they are NOT one company or conglomerate. do you say “the department stores have this policy”? or “the car dealerships like to do that”? no, of course not.  these are all separate entities. Southwest does not operate like American.  United does not have the same rules as Delta. JetBlue is different from Virgin America.
    this “the airlines” crap has got to stop!

  • cjr001

    No, it doesn’t have to stop, and it won’t stop. “The airlines” is an industry.

    And when, as an industry, they all react to each other with matching price increases, or fuel surcharges, or baggage fees, then they deserve to be lumped together. When they all have one-sided contracts with customers that are entirely in the airline’s favor, then they act as one.

  • flutiefan

    don’t like the contract? don’t agree to it.

  • Michael K

    That’s a more common version of it but not the only one.

    Here’s the description on Wikepedia:The goal of the bait-and-switch is to persuade buyers to purchase the substitute goods as a means of avoiding disappointment over not getting the bait, or as a way to recover sunk costs expended to try to obtain the bait. It suggests that the seller will not show the original product or service advertised but instead will demonstrate a more expensive product or a similar product with a higher margin.

  • Caitlin Fitzsimmons

    Carver is correct.

  • Really?


    I can clearly see the similarity. The example is a perfect one and totally relevant.

  • Really?

    You are laughable.

    Are you really that dense, er, skeptical? Wait, you must have worked too many days at the “gate”. All your comments and position makes sense now…

    (harmless giggle. Tehehehehe…). Tutiefan. Lightenup.

  • Really?

    Not surprised principle means nothing to you. you also probably think Rodeny King should have been happy with the band-aid the cops gave him. They did after all eventually take him to the hospital didn’t they. So why should he Complain. Take the band-aid and run rodney I’m sure is your position.