Orient Thai Airlines in consumer dispute: customers want response and refunds for flight cancellations

Over 10,000 possibly affected, as the airline suspended flights on its Hong Kong to Bangkok route in March, promising refunds, but customers have not received any updates.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 July, 2016, 8:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 July, 2016, 4:13pm

More than 10,000 passengers could have been affected by the cancellation of flights between Hong Kong and Bangkok by Orient Thai Airlines, as consumers complain they could not reach the company for refunds promised.

The airline, which operates only one plane on this route, has suspended service since March due to “mechanical problems”. The Boeing 747 model can carry about 400 people per flight.

Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung estimated that at least 10,000 passengers had been affected since the suspension, given the popularity of the route among budget travellers.

Tung also added that over 100 travel agencies had complained to the council about the cancellations since March.

The Thailand-based airline originally promised customers a refund in 45 days, but both travel agencies and individual travellers said they have neither received the money nor updates about the refund arrangement.

Up to 4,000 passengers hit as Orient Thai Airlines cancels service between Hong Kong and Bangkok for 10 days for ‘safety’ reasons

The Travel Industry Council successfully came into contact with the airline’s headquarters in Thailand last week, and a senior management member promised to send representatives to Hong Kong to negotiate the refund. But the company had not fixed a time to meet with local representatives.

Democratic Party vice-charman Andrew Wan Siu-kin said his office had received over 20 cases requesting assistance in relation to the unrefunded tickets, with the amount involved in one reaching over HK$70,000.

Ms Leung, one of the customers, said she had purchased 17 flight tickets with hotel bookings through a local travel agency in January for a company trip during the Easter holidays. Two months later, she was informed by the agency that her flight was cancelled and refunds were to be issued in 45 days.

“I haven’t got anything. I could do nothing but wait.” Leung said.

What confused her further was how the airline lost touch with her recently.

Leung said she was able to reach the airline’s Hong Kong consumer service counter in March. But the company had been uncontactable since June.

Andrew Wan said that other customers who had contacted him have had similar experiences.

Wan urged the Consumer Council, Customs as well as Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department to step in, as legal actions against an overseas company in Hong Kong were rather difficult and can be complicated. He explained: “It’s better for the government to directly talk to them.”

Instead, customers will seek assistance from the Thai consulate in Hong Kong. A meeting between the parties is likely to take place this week, added Wan.