KUALA LUMPUR: With the minimum standards that ensure the rights of air passengers in the Malaysia Aviation Consumer Protection Code 2016, those travelling by air will have stronger consumer protection in the event of flight delay, loss luggage and other travel woes. The Code came into effect on July 1
Customers would be entitled to meals, limited phone calls and Internet access for delays above two hours, or hotel accommodation and transport for delays above five hours.
Those who have taken up travel insurance will be compensated for the sum insured while those who have not will still have a safety net through the Code.
Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) consumer affairs director Pushpalatha Subramaniam said it would provide specific protection for aviation consumers.
Previously, consumers could only complain to the airline or airport and unresolved disputes would go to the Consumer Tribunal or consumer rights associations.
Most airports had procedures to deal with consumer complaints but the Code ensured minimum standards of practice, she said at Mavcom’s first public engagement with the media.
Minimum standards of practice covered full disclosure of air fare (including breakdown of fares and taxes), prohibition against automatically adding services like travel insurance or baggage, a requirement to accept reservations from persons with disabilities and compensation for flight delays.
Other rights involve flight cancellations and compensation for lost, damaged or delayed baggage.
A survey by Mavcom found that 69% of respondents had misconceptions on consumer rights, the most common issues being flight delays and cancellations, lost baggage and additional charges.
Pushpalatha said timeliness stood out as a major issue. Therefore, with the Code, airlines would be compelled to resolve complaints within 30 days.
“We encourage consumers to file complaints with airline operators directly at airports. If it’s not resolved within 30 days, they can complain to us,” she said.
Mavcom started taking complaints via its website (www.mavcom.my) since May, and received around 100 reports to date.
Nearly 98% of complaints were by consumers who already complained to airports and airlines, but were dissatisfied with the resolution.
Of the number, Mavcom resolved 95% of them, Pushpalatha said, adding that the top five complaints were over refunds, cancellations and lost baggage.
The Code applies to all Malaysian and foreign airlines landing at Malaysian airports.
Mavcom weighs a case within a week and will work with the airline or airport operator for a resolution within 14 days.
Pushpalatha said they would work with operators to close existing gaps in quality over the next six months, before exploring fines and penalties against operators.
“We want the airports and airlines to be efficient in their own way,” she said.
Asked if Mavcom would side with consumers or airlines and airports, Pushpalatha said they wanted to avoid an adversarial relationship.
“Do you think holding up a whip and walking behind the airlines will work?” she asked, adding that airlines were “very supportive” of the Code.
When contacted, Malaysia Airlines stated they were aware of the Code and had always conformed to international best practices. AirAsia declined to comment.
The Code, the first in Malaysia’s aviation industry, is adapted from international guidelines such as the Montreal Convention 1999 as well as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Core Principles on Consumer Protection.
Mavcom is an independent body set up under the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act 2015 to regulate economic and commercial matters related to civil aviation in Malaysia.
Two examples of claims
Passenger A arrives two hours ahead of his flight. However, 30 minutes after checking in, he is notified that his flight has been delayed and the airline is unable to determine the new departure time. He waits for more than two hours before a new departure time is given.
i) If the flight is delayed for more than two hours, he will be entitled to meals, telephone calls and internet access.
ii) If the flight is delayed for more than five hours, he will get hotel accommodation and transport between the airport and the hotel.
Passenger B arrives after a long-haul flight only to find that his baggage is missing. A report is filed with the airline immediately. After three days, there is still no sign of his baggage and airline admits responsibility for the loss.
He will be entitled to claim losses up to SDR1,131 (about RM6,200), subject to him being able to prove the losses incurred.
Note: The value of SDR is currently based on a basket of four major currencies – the US dollar, euro, Japanese yen and pound sterling.
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