Travelblog#48: An Open Letter of Complaint to KLIA Management

*This was originally just a letter I intended to send to Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s management team, but after I finished writing it I realised that the details it contains provide a fairly accurate account of my time in transit, so I decided to include it as part of my travelblog.*

 

I am one of the passengers who was left stranded for several days due to the airport in Kathmandu being closed. This grievance was not the fault of KLIA but, for the sake of context, I would like to begin by giving you just a small idea of how stressful it was. We kept being sent back and forth. Waiting for entire days, at times, in departure gates. Just for the flight to be delayed over and over again before it was cancelled. And then, after all of that, we often had to wait for hours to receive our bags back so we could wash and change our clothes for the next day. Where we would repeat the process all over again.

It was much worse for the Nepali passengers who, due to visa reasons, were not allowed outside the international departure zone. They couldn’t shower, they slept on the floor every night, and they lived on a diet of McDonalds vouchers. Those of us who possessed passports which allowed us to enter Malaysia visa-free were much luckier than them. We could, between all the stress of spending entire days (and often nights) in the airport, get outside, so we could eat proper food and stay in a hotel. This arrangement also, I believe, relieved some of the pressure from a departure zone clogged with stranded passengers.

On the night of the 7th of March myself and another 30+ passengers, having just found out for the fourth day in a row that our flights had been cancelled, experienced problems with Immigration Officer M.H. Low. He immediately, before we even opened our mouths to speak, began shouting at us, and then crossed his arms over his chest, smiled, and proudly proclaimed, “I am the authority!” in a manner you would expect a child to assume having just been given control of all the toys in a nursery.

As he was busy embarrassing himself, I walked over to some of the other Immigration staff (whom, may I add, looked perplexed) to ask if I could speak to his superior, and was informed, to my utter disbelief, that he was the highest ranking Immigration Officer on duty at the time. “Well, when does his shift finish then?” I asked, tiredly. “When is there a new one? This isn’t usually a problem…”

Despite how aggressive he was trying to be – with the way he was ostentatiously waving his arms around, proudly proclaiming “I am superior!” “I have authority!” “I have been here for 20 years!” – it was very hard to take him seriously. At first many of us thought that he was joking and trying to be humorous. It was like watching an over-the-top character in a farcical, slightly surreal, comedy sketch acting out a parody of their self.

I think a question that the management of KLIA needs to strongly consider is: do you really think this is the sort of person you want as the face – a representative – of KLIA? Or even Malaysia in general? An airport and country which both have reputations for being among the most modern and respectable in Asia? He truly acted like a child – he even literally stamped his foot a few times. There is no polite way to properly explain his behaviour… you would have had to have seen a video of it to truly believe how ridiculous it was, and awkward it was it was to watch.

I also suspect that I am not the first person to have ever complained about him. The thing which surprises me the most is just how did someone with his manner manage to ascend to his position of “superior authority!” in the first place, and maintain it for so long?

He started telling us that we could only be let through if we refunded our tickets. “No postponing anymore! No come back tomorrow!” To which I told him that our bookings’ and our airline tickets were between us and AirAsia, and not his concern.

The staff of AirAsia seemed equally shocked by his behaviour.

I eventually got very tired of it all so I interrupted one of his long self-important rants. I will admit, I was a bit rude – justifiably so; because it was not even a patch on how rude he was being to us, and trying to speak to him like he was a normally functioning adult had simply got us nowhere. “Yes! Yes!” I said. “We get the point. Everyone in this entire hall knows now that you are very big important man – that you have superior authority… can we go?”

I guess my words must have stuck true, because he finally looked as embarrassed as he should have felt, and stepped aside.

The following morning I received a phone call from AirAsia saying that my flight had unexpectedly been rescheduled and I had just one hour to get the airport. I had to madly rush there, catching a taxi followed by the KLIA Express train. When I got to check-in counter the woman at the desk told me that it was still possible for me to board the plane but I was going to have to hurry; the other 200+ people on the flight were waiting for me.

It turned out, however, that M.H. Low was still on duty. He recognised me from the previous night and, as soon as he saw me, he marched over and screamed, “I have a problem with you!” and took my passport and boarding pass from me. He then walked away and well… just stood there for a while, smiling smugly. He knew I was in a hurry and was trying to bully me. I eventually walked to him and calmly tried to tell him that there was a flight currently boarding – being delayed – for me, but he screamed at me the same old, tiring proclamation he kept making the previous night.

“I have authority!”

Anyone who was there would have been able to tell you that it was very transparent that he was not holding me up for professional reasons, but rather out of a personal vendetta he had – because I was one of the passengers who argued with him the night before. He began shouting at me very loudly, making the whole room stare at him, and a lot of the people who witnessed it were shocked. Yet again, he started stamping his foot, like child, and waving his arms around in a fashion that I can only describe as some kind of poorly scripted pantomime villain.

He made me run all the way back to the AirAsia counter, so I could get one of them to come and tell him that my plane was boarding. He knew my plane was boarding; it was on the departure screen. He was just trying to get revenge on me for making him realise how silly he looked the previous night. He was, yet again, just throwing his weight around, trying to prove to the world he has “authority!”, and, in the process, making himself look very pathetic and small, and potentially delaying an international flight filled with people who had already been held up for five days.

I returned shortly later with a very helpful lady from AirAsia who just simply repeated to him in Malay what I had already said to him several times in English; that my flight was boarding – waiting for me – and I needed to get to the gate.

I would also like to mention that the same staff member said to me that if I wanted to make a complaint about him, she would be very happy give an account of the event herself.

I want to take this complaint as high as it can go, and I expect a reply, telling me what action is being taken.

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