Budget airlines get complaints

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Budget airlines get complaints


Consumer complaints about foreign budget airlines soared last year due to frequent delays and cancellations of flights, according to a report released by the Korea Consumer Agency yesterday.

The consumer watchdog said a total of 482 complaints about airlines were submitted to the agency last year, which was a 43.4 percent rise from 2012.

The main culprits of the complaints were foreign low-cost carriers, or LCCs, which saw their complaints jump to 209 last year, 533.3 percent higher than the previous year. The number of complaints about local LCCs was 87 in 2013, only one above 2012.

Meanwhile, complaints about full-service carriers were down for both domestic and foreign airlines. Complaints about Korean carriers were down 25.3 percent year-on-year to 43 cases in 2013, while foreign airlines saw complaints decline 10.1 percent to 143.

According to the agency, AirAsia Zest received the most complaints. The Philippine-based budget carrier, which was acquired by Asia’s largest LCC, AirAsia, last September, had 34 complaints per 100,000 travelers. Last year, a total of 404,260 passengers used AirAsia Zest in Korea, according to data from the Korea Airport Corporation.

The corporation explained that flight suspensions for AirAsia Zest last August was the main cause of the complaints. The airline was ordered by Philippine authorities to suspend operations from Aug. 17 to 21 due to safety regulation violations. During that period, some 4,100 local consumers experienced cancelled or delayed flights.

The KCA said that among 141 complaints filed to the agency, 129 cases were transferred to its Consumers Dispute Settlement Commission for a collective dispute adjustment process.

Japan’s Peach Aviation was No. 2 in terms of complaints, with 9.7 cases per 100,000 passengers, followed by AirAsia X, the Malaysia-based long-haul budget carrier of AirAsia, with 5.3 cases and Cebu Pacific with 2.7 cases.

More than 63 percent of Korean consumers said that cancellations or delays were their reason to complain about foreign LCCs, while nearly 30 percent pointed to foreign LCCs’ poor refund policy for cancelled tickets.

“Among 209 complaints regarding foreign LCCs, only 30 cases were settled last year,” the KCA said in a statement. “Some foreign LCCs don’t have branches in Korea, so it makes it difficult for local consumers to get proper compensation.”

In order to avoid problems, the agency advised consumers to thoroughly check both charges and refund policies, especially when purchasing tickets of foreign LCCs .

“Some foreign LCCs charge adult fares for any children over 2 years old, so consumers need to check the fares when travelling with children,” the KCA said. “For discounted tickets and buying tickets via special promotions, a full refund may not be guaranteed so consumers need to read the terms and conditions carefully.”

The KCA said it will work with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport and other local organizations to deal with poor customer service and other problems consumers faced.

In a bid to enhance Korean travelers’ comfort and safety, the Transport Ministry began posting safety information this week about 70 foreign airlines from 30 countries, which also includes on-time departure rates and frequency of flight cancellations due to maintenance.

According to the ministry data, All Nippon Airways, AirAsia, Emirates and Mandarin Airlines were the top four airlines for departing on time from Korean airports last year, while Air Canada, American Airlines, Air Caledonie and Delta were the worst.

Among local carriers, Air Busan, a LCC owned by Asiana Airlines, had the lowest flight delay rate: only two flights out of 3,450 flights were delayed over an hour or cancelled in 2013. Korean Air Lines, the nation’s largest air carrier, was second after 52 out of 44,723 flights operated last year did not depart on time.

Eastar Jet was the worst among Korean air carriers: 15 out of 2,121 flights last year were delayed or cancelled.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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