Uncovering a Can of Worms at Air Asia

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Facebook user Claudette Cirujales Cledera posted on her timeline a very riveting episode that she encountered on her way out of Puerto Princesa on their way back to Metro Manila on December 30. For those who are not yet familiar, Air Asia is the Philippine arm of the Malaysian low-cost airline provider AirAsia which seeks to open travel lanes to a lot of places in the Southeast Asian region.

What was supposed to be a memorable experience stemming from a successful wedding ceremony turned out to be a harrowing nightmare as Cledera’s group underwent an overzealous and possibly anomalous interpretation of the aircraft industry’s rules with regards to the weight of the carry-on luggage allowed per person on any given flight.

As per relevant airline regulations, each passenger is allowed a maximum of 7 kilograms or 15 pounds of carry-on luggage with an additional maximum of two items from the following list: small handbag, a pocket book, an overcoat, wrap (shawl) or blanket, a small camera or binoculars, a laptop with case and a reasonable amount of reading material. Any excess weight would of course be charged with an appropriate excess baggage charge which varies from airline to airline.

However, in the case of Cledera, she claims that her carry-on suitcase was rudely removed from her person by a security personnel as she was about to board the plane. She also noted that this was done rather selectively as she noted other passengers from the priority and premium lanes were not checked at all. She further claims that she checked the weight of her luggage before leaving Puerto Princesa and it weighed less than the 7-kilogram limit and she also divested some items before boarding. She was shocked when her luggage weighed more than the 7-kilogram limit!

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The security personnel then inexplicably took her handbag (which as earlier noted, is permissible based on the existing regulations) and added it to the pile, bringing her total carry-on weight to more than 10 kilograms! And even more surprisingly, the airline supervisors and ground employees seemed to be in on this scheme as they repeatedly explained to the affected passengers that this is standard procedure.

Cledera claimed that this should have been during the check-in procedure and not during the boarding process. Cledera also believes that this anomalous scheme can be attributed to the fact that airline companies can charge more per excess kilogram when this is done prior to actually boarding the plane. The prevailing rates for excess weight in the check-in counter is Php 800 and is pegged at Php 1500 at the boarding gate – you do the math and they might be raking in thousands in additional charges from unsuspecting passengers who just go with the flow to avoid any other hassles stemming from such issues.

What made matters worse for Cledera’s case is that when one of her entourage went back to help her sort it out and pulled his wallet to settle the matter, she noticed that the amount was not up to par with the excess weight recorded. So, just to expedite the process, Cledera divested more of her belongings to family members who were booked on a different airline.

No excess charge was levied on Cledera but when she weighed the luggage afterward, she found out it was way below the accepted limit which of course infuriated her more. Further interrogations with other airline personnel from other carriers proved that this scheme has been in place for quite some time now, usually targeting foreigners and a smattering of local travelers.

Cledera closed her post by asking that Air Asia management take a look at this practice of the Puerto Princesa crew because it is not doing the company any favors. And while Air Asia does want to open up the skies for travel, this scheme might not be giving them a good image to the flying public.

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