By Anthony Dylan Anak Frankie Jurem

It is never a good experience to be delayed in a foreign country. I have experienced delays before and mostly on domestic flights within Malaysia. Those experiences I had were from my Penang-Kuala Lumpur trips on the 2nd last flight of the day. These were on Malaysia Airlines. Those who were travelling with me for work and I would always make a prediction if we were to be delayed each time we checked in at Penang Airport. The best part of the delay was the serving of water and soft drinks with a choice of McDonald’s burgers.

I was in Bangkok recently. It had been a while since I travelled to Bangkok and has been over 4 years since 2019. My first international trip was actually to Perth a few months ago. Nevertheless, it was the first time I also flew Batik Air to Bangkok. The departure was from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 1 and landed at the Don Mueang International Airport. Though this was an old airport, I preferred this airport as it is less busy and easier to walk through.

Anyways, whilst the flight into Don Mueang was near effortless, the flight back was another one to remember. Our flight was on the evening before Chap Goh Mei. It would have been a perfect timing to reach home that night and have a good rest before the next day’s final celebration of Chinese New Year. On the 23rd February 2024, our flight OD523 was to have taken off at 7.15pm Thailand time.

As we were seated in the B737-800 which seemed rather old but with an “In Flight Entertainment screen (IFE)”, the wait in the stuffy cabin did not help. It was a good wait before the plane pushed back and headed towards the runway ready for take-off.   At that point, the air conditioning did not seem to be working and the plane became overly stuffy. Air was coming out of the vent, but the temperature was not lowered. You can imagine the situation when many started to take out the seat emergency manual or the inflight magazine to fan themselves. Children began to create a cacophony as they felt uncomfortable.

After a long wait which we thought was a normal queue waiting for others to take off, the pilot came on air and informed us that the aircraft has been discovered to have a technical issue and must return to the aircraft bay for a maintenance check. After a duration of time, with the air conditioning suddenly working, the pilot came on again and advised that the technical issue cannot be solved and that passengers would have to disembark. He also advised that buses were being arranged.

We disembarked and were brought to the terminal again in a few buses. This is where it got messy. We were already on the plane for nearly 2 hours. No one knew what was happening next. No announcements were made to everyone. It seemed that it was up to us to figure out where to meet. The only clue we got was to follow fellow passengers. The Thai Airport personnel somehow were not prepared for this as they did not even have the will to reassure and organize passengers. After a few minutes of being in the dark and waiting near the counter, some decided to head to the toilets. Roughly 10-15 minutes later, we were advised that we were to be placed in a hotel.  They claimed the next flight was at 9am the next day.

We had to queue again at the immigration counter as it was necessary to void our departure stamp. Again, no personnel advised the group what was next. Perhaps they assumed this was something any traveler would have experienced. We were not allowed to head to the toilet whilst in queue which was rather long. Those with checked in luggage were asked to wait whilst the baggage was passed back to them.

It was again a near hour wait at this point and still no proper communication by the personnel who stood around and do not seem interested in communicating.  All we had was a message that we had to wait for the bus to take us to the hotel and they gave us little laminated tabs to keep as identifiers. It was a long wait and as no updates were made and when our bus came to take us to the hotel, it was already close to midnight. Ironically, the hotel where we were put in was named ‘Miracle Grand Convention Hotel’.

Another shocker was we only knew our flight was scheduled for 305am at the check in counter and asked to check out at 130am. The time when we checked in? 1150pm. I reached my room at midnight and had a midnight shower in a room so beautiful I could not even lay my head on the luxurious pillows and firm queen-sized bed. I had to get room service as I was famished, and it took 1 hour to reach. That pizza margherita was too challenging to finish in 30 minutes so I had a slice and scraped the toppings from the rest.

We queued again to check in at the airport in the wee hours of the morning. The flight scheduled then remained at 305am for OD523. The screen though showed the flight no changed to OD525. No one briefed us still. We only got to know at the counter. Those there seemed friendlier and more interested to reassure us.

Alas, within the departure gates, our flight was delayed to 330am and only flew at 350am Thailand time. Batik Air OD525 using a newer B737-800 without IFE landed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 1 finally at 655am Malaysia time on Chap Goh Mei. This has been a rather tiring experience and a worrying experience for those waiting at the airport and at home.

This flight delay can happen to anyone and any airline. However, to be home safe matters more. What was rather disappointing was how the affected passengers were treated without reassurance and proper information in Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok Thailand.

Would I ban Batik Air? No, I would not. The airline did what they did. My lament is targeted at the airport hospitality.