Phony Excuses for Overbooking Practices

July 4, 2016

in Airport Stories

A few years ago I had such a ridiculously bad and unforgivable experience with Hong Kong Airlines that sometimes I find it hard to believe that it actually happened.

I was meant to fly back to Hong Kong (HKG) from Sanya, China (SYX) with my family (four of us) after a week-long vacation in the city. We were hesitant at first to fly Hong Kong Airlines, but they were our only choice for the flight as our preferred (and only) alternative airline Dragonair was fully booked. Given the ordeal that we had to face, we were probably better off taking the train or maybe even walking.

We showed up at Sanya Phoenix International Airport on our departure day well before our departure time and proceeded to the check-in desks. As Sanya is a small city with a tiny airport that handles only a couple of international flights daily, there were only two check-in desks, supervised by a single Hong Kong Airlines representative.

We approached one of the counters expecting a smooth and uneventful check-in, but we were soon told by the Hong Kong Airlines agent to turn back around as we were not booked on the flight (say what?). He soon abandoned this excuse after we showed him our itinerary and confirmation emails from Hong Kong Airlines.

Moments later, he once again told us that we could not fly because my mother did not have the proper documents to enter Hong Kong. This could not have been possible as my mother happens to a permanent resident of Hong Kong. After we explained this to him, the agent gave up on his fake excuses and confessed that the real reason why we couldn’t board was because the flight was overbooked and there was no longer space for us on the aircraft. Wow, thanks your honesty (not).

Overbooking is generally an acceptable practice as long as airlines offer same-day alternative flights to their destination (and sometimes extra vouchers) should passengers be booted from an overbooked flight. In our situation, this was not the case. This Hong Kong Airlines flight that we were booked on was the only flight to Hong Kong on that day, as the Dragonair flight had already departed earlier in the day. Therefore, we were booted off the flight with no alternative to get us to Hong Kong, as the same flight on the next day was also overbooked. Absolutely unacceptable.

In the end, we figured that the only way we could get back to Hong Kong was to take a 1.5 hour flight from neighboring city Haikou (3 hours away by car) to Shenzhen, then take another 2 hour car ride across the border to get us to Hong Kong. It was nowhere near ideal and a huge hassle (especially for my elderly grandmother), but it was our only choice.

We left Sanya International Airport at around 6pm and got a cab to take us on the 3 hour ride to Haikou. The cab ride fortunately only cost around 800 Yuan or 130 USD as we had to pay for it out of our own pockets. At this point we realized that we hadn’t eaten anything since noon, and had a quick dinner at Haikou airport (paid by yours truly of course) before boarding our flight to Shenzhen.

Once we arrived at Shenzhen, we embarked upon another 2 hour car ride across the border that finally took us to our final destination and cost us another 250 USD. By the time we had arrived it was 1am in the morning, whereas we should have arrived no later than 8pm if we were allowed onboard the Hong Kong Airlines flight.

After several days of making countless phone calls trying to chase down some compensation, our ticket fares were refunded to us and we were each given around 150 USD of compensation for the hassle. I would highly discourage any of you from flying Hong Kong Airlines unless you want to face a similar experience. Their management and customer service are absolutely disgraceful for any airline, let alone a full-service airline.

– Houston L

My blog: Plain Aviation

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mathew July 8, 2017 at 8:09 am

Wonderful post.


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