My husband and I made a booking for a 7 day Central Japan Tour with ASA Holidays during their pre-natas sale on 1st Aug 09, departing on the 20 Dec 09. We have also requested for an extension to return on the 30 Dec 09 and fully noted that all flight extensions are subject to seat availability. We even got a special discount off the sale price as we were the 1st 10 couples. Lucky? I doubt we are now.
Below is a summary of event thereafter:
- After 3 weeks from booking, I made an enquiry to our sale agent Mr Lawrence Ng to ask if the tour group is confirmed for departure. He told me very confidently that the tour will be able to depart successfully but they can’t confirm the flight extension yet. I informed Lawrence that should there is any changes or update, do let us know ASAP. (note this is a verbal conservation between me and Lawrence).
- I received no further communication from the agency until 2 Oct 09 after I sent in a sale enquiry (email) to check on my extension.
- 7 Oct 09, The Manager - Customer Service/Sales, Mr Tham Yew Mun replied that they will expedite our request with the airline on the flight extension as soon as possible.
- 19 Oct 09, I wrote to Mr Tham asking for update since we did not hear from him for the past 2 week. At the same time, we asked if it is possible to change the extension date from 30 Dec to 29 Dec 09 instead since the flight extension has yet to be confirmed. Mr Tham replied that they will change our request. My sixth sense told me something was not right (woman’s sixth sense don’t underestimate it).
- We wrote an email to JAL on 2 Nov to check on our extension request directly and at the same time followed up with Mr Tham on 3 Nov for update. Mr Tham responded that the flight extension for NRT-SIN on 29Dec'09 is still on request and they are unable to advise us any confirmation at this moment.
- 10 Nov 09, JAL wrote back to me and informed that there was no request made by the agency for us to fly back on the 29 Dec or 30 Dec 09 and in fact, we are still on wait list for the original return date (26 Dec 09 or 27 Dec 09)!!
From this onwards is all verbally communication.
Wow, that was the finally straw, we went to the agency to meet Mr Tham on 11 Nov 09 to seek for a clearer explanation on the whole matter. Mr Tham said that he has shut down from his system and couldn’t access it. He explained that his colleague may not request for extension until the original return flight date is confirmed. Why he didn’t even checked or told us when he first respond to us on 7 Oct? We told him that is it not fair as we have made our booking and request so early in advance and yet seems like the norm saying “early bird got the biggest worm” has gone down the drain? I thought normally the agent will block your seats for the original return date and put up a request to the airline on the extension (Please correct me if my understanding is wrong & after note: but I forgotten another salient point that this will only be possible if the group is confirmed. SO blame it on our BAD LUCK)
Mr Tham then add on that he can’t confirm when and what went wrong as he is from the sale department and is not aware of how the operation department who help process the booking of air ticket and accommodation operates. Did I mention Mr Tham is The Manager of Customer Service/Sales!! He is not aware how their operation department operates? Mr Tham then mentioned that he is hungry, he has not eaten his lunch and is looking forward to go back home to have dinner. It’s around 7.15pm, okay so as not to hold him up, we left on the note that he will give us a proper explanation tomorrow after he checked with his operation department.
Mr Tham asked his staff, Mr Yeap to call my husband on 12 Nov 09 and informed him that there are only 10paxs signed up for the tour on 20 Dec 09. We can continue to wait till the min 15 pax is formed or they are willing to refund the full deposit to us.
To double confirmed, I called acting as a customer and asked if there is a departure on the 20th Dec 09, Mr Yeap who answered the phone told me that all the December tours are fully booked except for 1st Dec 09. I asked Mr Yap to double confirm that the 20th Dec was fully booked; he confirmed that it is fully booked and they can accept no more booking. Mr Yeap added that there is in fact another departure on the 19 Dec 09 but is fully booked too with 45 pax! At that juncture, my mind is full of questions and bewilderment. You know what, when we booked the package on 1 Aug, the available departure dates are 4,6,11,13,18,20 and 25. 19 Dec is not even in the list! Do you think 45pax has already booked the package for 19 Dec travel even before 1 Aug. Is this the reason why this date is not reflected in the ASA brochures?
After a short discussion with my husband, we called Mr Yeap back on the inconsistency of his answer. He changed his comment again saying that the group on 20 Dec 09 has insufficient people, so the agency has decided to take this tour off the list. They will not accept booking for this date as the air tickets for that day is very full and they are unable to get the air ticket, that’s why he said the tour is full for booking earlier.
There are so many versions of explanation right : ) A moment ago, he is telling my husband that we can continue to wait till the min 15 pax is formed or they are willing to refund the full deposit to us. The next moment, he is telling me (acting as a customer) that 20th Dec was fully booked. Since they don't even bother to push for the 20th Dec departure, why is Mr Yeap telling my husband that we can continue to wait till the min 15 pax is formed. Lastly, they informed that we can get a full refund on my deposit (which leaves us with no holiday) or we can change to other dates (which I guess will be after Christmas maybe after new year, non-peak period)….. so disappointing, we always aim to travel to other country during Christmas but even when we booked so earlier, who would have thought we will not be able to travel.
They have left us with no other choice but to go with the option of full refund since our intention is to celebrate our Christmas in Japan .
We went down to ASA on the same day, 12 Nov planning to process our refund. While waiting, guess what we saw… There is another couple in Mr Tham room complaining something about a Japan package (door is open). After 15mins of waiting, the couple came out of the room angrily and the guy is tearing the ASA brochures, throwing it on the floor. We asked them what happened and they told us that their 20th Dec Japan trip is cancelled as the group is not formed.. what a coincident.. same itinerary with same departure date… they (4pax traveling) also bought the same special discount package as us in Aug!! Interesting…
I will like to curse very much at this point but it’s a public forum so I will control my use of words.
- Firstly, when I wrote in to them in early Oct 09, Mr Tham did not mention that the tour group is not formed and just merely informed me (2 short sentences) that my flight extension request is still on pending. In a normal mind, you will have only thought that my package is confirmed and just the extension is pending.
- Mr Tham did not have the initiative to respond or call back between 2 Oct to 10 Nov updating us on the progress. We have to keep reminding him on our request before he responds us with the standard answer.
- There are few emails corresponding between us, Mr Tham still did not inform us that the tour group has not been confirmed nor they had made initiative to offer us a alternative date like 19 Dec 09 since 20 Dec 09 take up rate is so low (giving us the priority as we booked the package 4 months in advance before departure). If we are informed by the agency on the low take up rate earlier and advice us an alternative confirmed date for travel, we would have consider and settle with it
- I am very surprised to hear from Mr Yeap that 19 Dec 09 is fully booked with 45 paxs while 20 Dec 09 has only 10paxs. 19 Dec is a Sat while 20 Dec is a Sun, why doesn’t the agency push for some groups to depart on 20 Dec instead of pushing all 45pax to 19 Dec?
- Interestingly, we met another couple on 12 Nov at ASA who has booked the same departure date, same itinerary and at special discount package was force to take the refund or select another alternative date but after Dec.
We have tried checking with most of the bigger and even smaller agencies but they informed us the December Christmas period 2009 packages are all fully booked. The only earliest date is 29 Dec 09 and will cost us $1000 more. We wanted to travel during the Christmas period, it is a very popular period given the public holidays and the festival season and the SAVINGS AND DISCOUNT we enjoyed as we booked very early. ALL THESE ARE THE REASONS why we booked so early in Aug 09 even before the Natas Fair but what’s the use, we booked so early but yet could not even fly now. This is extremely upsetting. I should have stick to the travel agencies I have booked before.
Also there are terms in their sale agreement which states that if the group size is less than 15 days, the group will be cancelled and they will only be able to confirm the tour before 2 weeks from departure. Contractually they may have done no wrong as they are protected by the terms. This is a matter of additional customer service, they should consider looking up to good practice like SA Tours where they have the courtesy to inform customers in advance knowing is a peak season so that the consumers have the option to change date earlier. And not left with no where to travel despite taken leave etc. But like I said, it is a matter of striving beyond towards customer service excellence. SO bad luck on my part that I booked with a less “initiative agency” and try to help you to meet your traveling wish :(