Shutup and give AirAsia your money
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AirAsia Scams Customers 20 Dolleroos Tricks of the trade

While booking flights online to visit my partner for her birthday and our 1st year anniversary. I was shocked to find AirAsia almost tricked me into paying an additional 20 dollars I didn’t have to.

I’ve flown AirAsia a lot and I’ve been praising them for their low-cost, friendly service and clean aircraft. However, It’s come to my attention that their online sales flow isn’t so (friendly) and has severely damaged my – customer – trust.

Edit: I noticed this page. It seems Direct Debit is also charged and credit cards are charged per guest. This significantly increases the revenue estimate I created below.

Here’s how they do it

Book online and select ‘Credit Card’ as your payment option. You’ll be greeted with a standard payment screen. If you’re like me, you’ll put your credit card on the table next to you and type the numbers while you look at the card and keyboard without looking at the screen. I will then double-check my card number, enter expiry and CCV. Then click purchase.

I discovered by chance out of the corner of my eye. The fee was introduced after typing the 5th character. It’s silent. No warning, pop-up or display. I was busy reading the numbers from my card. I almost missed the additional $20 fee added to my purchase.

Ain’t no one looks at the screen

To make matters worse. The total amount next to the ‘Purchase’ call-to-action is never updated. This is important as (at leased most countries) read left-to-right. There is a lower chance you’ll notice the price change at the top-of-the-page. This is basic User Interface design.

AirAsia Scams Customers

The MoneyShot

Customers are being deceived when they would’ve otherwise paid using another method that removes the $20 fee. I chose to use PayPal and did not incur the fee. However, I was close to being tricked!

Here’s the thing

AirAsia has plausible deniability. The first 4-digits of the card number verifies the card type (Mastercard/Visa etc). The functionality makes sense. This is required for them to pull the $20 fee and push their own ‘BIG Prepaid Mastercard’. The fee is ridiculous but that’s a plausible reason the function is there.

AirAsia will blame customers for not recognizing the processing fee. Even if you noticed you were charged another $20 and you had the patience to endure calling AirAsia. You’re fighting a losing battle. Not only will you wait over 20 minutes on hold. You’ll be told “I’m sorry sir/madam, all visa/mastercard incurs a $20 processing fee. It’s on the website when you make a purchase”. Not that you’ll remember because it’s so convoluted! You can argue with the Customer Service Representative but they won’t even know it’s deceitful because they’ve never noticed (or used it) either!

So unless you want to battle it out with AirAsia over 20 bucks, you’re going to say “stuff it” and that’s wrong. AirAsia has a responsibility to ensure customers are aware of the fee. That means, making if obvious to customers. A modal popup or 2-step ‘purchase’ button that says “STOP! Are you sure you want to pay by Credit Card, you’ll pay another $20!” is so easy to make.

They won’t, because this scam is done purposely and makes them a bucket-load of cash.

Lets Look at the Figures $$$

Fleecing 20 bucks off one person is nothing. Multiply it buy a high number and you can make millions. Lets take a look.

AirAsia’s fleet consists of A320s/A330s. That’s 180/377 passengers according to their website. I’ve been on 7 AirAsia flights and they haven’t always been full. They also have more A320 service. Let’s take a wild estimate and assume on average there’s 100 people per flight. This also takes into account that this scam happens per transaction. You can have multiple flights and people booked to one transaction.

AirAsia does 180 flights per day, according to Wikipedia. That’s not including subsidiaries, which there are 8. For example, AirAsia X (which I take from Melbourne to KL) has 21 flights per day. The others more. Let’s focus only on one. So we have:

180 flights * 100 transactions = 18,000

Not everyone books online. So let’s go with a rough estimate of 50%.

18,000/2 = 9,000

Of those people who book online, only half of them opt for the credit card option. As opposed to PayPal or Direct Debit.

9,000/2 = 4,500

Of those who use credit card, let’s say 75% use Visa/Mastercard/Amex (incurring the fee).

4,500 * 0.75 = 3,375

Of those, 30% fail to notice the fee change.

3,375 * 0.3 = 1012.5

Of those people, 70% notice. 50% of them change payment type. 50% of them don’t think it’s worth the $20 to follow up. The remaining try and only 20% are successful in getting a refund.

3,375 * 0.7 = 2362.5 * 0.5 = 1181.25 * 0.5 = 590.625 * 0.8 = 472.5

Add the ‘fail-to-notice’ and the ‘fail-to-claim’.

1012.5 + 472.5 = 1485

Minus a transaction fee of 3%. Where Visa/Mastercard are generally 2%.

1485 * 0.97 = 1898.775

Now you have the number of people per day who get done over by the scam. We multiply this by the amount. I’m going to guess the value is different per country. Eg, Australia will pay more then Vietnam. So lets go with $10 AUD per transaction.

1898.775 * 10 = 1440.45

We multiply that by the number of days per year. Taking into account holiday, off-peak periods, cancellations and events. We say the flights run 340 days of the year.

1440.45 * 340

Total: $489,753 AUD/year

Now that is an impressive number. Let’s just say there are only 100 flights and only 1/200 customers get caught. Assuming 100 passengers per plane. that’s 50 flights where 1 person gets scammed. We estimate it’s $7 per scam. That equates to 50 * 7 * 340 days per year = $119,000. That’s still a lot of money.

No matter what way you look at it, the customers are losing out. If there’s someone from AirAsia who would like to tackle this and explain it a bit further. I’d love to. I’m no mathematician but I know there’s a good chance it’s a lot of money. Even at a million dollars per year. It’s a lucrative scam.

Solution

If AirAsia is serious about their reputation. They need to add a more obvious processing fee message. It’s not even hard. Even if you gave the development team a month (and it shouldn’t take that long). You’re saving yourself face and customers will thank you for it.

I’m going to bet you’ve done it on purpose. Because, hey, you gotta make a profit right? Hit those sales targets. I mean, who gives a shit about the customer. They aren’t going to claim back $20.

And no one will ever know.

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What do you think?