With all the airlines struggling to sell seats, and the supposed 'Price War' that has ensued, I thought I might publish an email I sent my travel agent upon our return from Bangkok. Thai Air had offered a hella deal on Business Seats, so we thought we'd sample the delights of 'Business Class'. While the seats and service (once seated) were great, actually getting the seats we'd paid for turned out to be a 7 hour marathon at the Bangkok terminal.This is the future of airline travel folks, you get what you pay for (cheap seats) but sometimes not even that. Thai obviously sold more Business Seats than they had in the actual plane, and hoped some people either wouldn't turn up or could be fobbed off back in to economy.
Subject: Thai Air
Hi [travel agent's name redacted, it wasn't his fault],
We got back on Saturday night (approx 10 hours late) and had a great time overall, marred only by the final leg ie the flight from Bangkok to Auckland. I'll fill you in:
When we turned up at check in we were told that the flight was full and they only had one Business seat left. We expressed surprise since we had paid for 3 business seats and we expected to be seated in business.
The check in lady was all smiles and said they would ask if any of the business passengers would be prepared to move to economy (and be compensated) so that our family could fly together in business. This process took a very long time and an hour later we were still without any confirmed seats. Our bags had been checked but no boarding passes issued. Because we didn't have seats.
The language barrier kicked in early on and this added to our distress. We were seemingly being assured the matter would be resolved in our favour, but without much detail as to how. All we knew was that time was ticking by and the gate would close. We were offered one seat in business and two in economy, with compensation of approximately NZ $400 for each seat, which we declined. We were later offered two seats in business, and one in economy, which we also declined. We were later offered two seats in business, and one in business on an Emirates flight leaving two hours after the Thai flight, which we said we would accept if they could not get a third passenger to go back to economy (we were under the impression that some people had been bumped up because they were waitlisted for Business, or used their Starpoints, but as I mentioned the language barrier made everything unclear).
Then with about 10 minutes to go, we were happily informed that all three of us could travel together in Business on the Emirates flight, leaving two hours later, if we wanted to travel together. Which we accepted. A porter led us from the Thai Airways side of the enormous Bangkok Terminal right across to the other side to the Emirates desk. Where the Emirates staff were less than pleased. Their english was better and they explained that they had told Thai that their flight was full and the best they could do was waitlist us on business, and that they could not confirm seats. And now that we were in front of them they could confirm that it was highly unlikely we would get any seat (even in economy) on their flight. So we went all the way back to the Thai counter.
Again we had to wait a long time while they sorted things out. They then cheerfully informed us that they could get us to Auckland by the next flight out, leaving at midnight. But via Sydney ie the Thai Air Bangkok-Sydney flight. The Sydney-Auckland leg would be on Air NZ later, but we would be home by 8.30pm! Unfortunately both flights were full, so we would have to fly economy on both legs. Again, [my partner] indicated this was not acceptable, since we had paid for business seats. There were more smiles and some time later they came back and told us that they could confirm seats in Business, for both legs. Great, but now we had to wait another 45 minutes for the seats to be re-ticketed.
Long story short we spent over 7 hours in the Bangkok terminal, and only two and half of them in the Thai Business lounge. Our daughter was a mess by then, so naturally we were disappointed at how things turned out. Thai did give us meal vouchers for dinner at the terminal, which was appreciated, but the whole affair was quite stressful. The only silver lining was that we got to trial Air NZ's business service - their sleeper seats we found to be superior to Thai's.
Since returning we have had lots of of comment from all and sundry that this is how the airline industry work now: flights are oversold to ensure maximum profitability and undersold flights are cancelled (as happened to my brother and his two boys, in Amsterdam). If this is the future of air travel then surely it will only hasten the decline of the industry.
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NB - when we actually got on the Air NZ flight there were PLENTY of business seats free so Thai Air LIED about that - how much of what else they told was a lie?