AirAsia's Corona Virus Refund process explained

March 18 Update: Govt of India has banned flights from Malaysia, Philippines and Afghanistan. This is bound to affect Air Asia heavily. If you have a flight in and out of India till 31st March, your flight is mostly cancelled and this will make you eligible for full refund.

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Air Asia is a major low cost carrier in South East Asia flying to dozens of countries in the region. AirAsia sells tickets years in advance and because of their tempting low fares, many customers would have booked their trips months in advance. Now that world is struggling to come out of Corona Virus (COVID-19) crisis, most passengers do not want to travel, to minimize risk and to aid in speedy recovery from the crisis. However airlines need to stay afloat and can't afford to give generous refunds to every passenger. Airlines around the world are scrambling to define their Corona Virus refund strategy- while a few allow full refund (for select dates and destinations) others are only offering rescheduling (again subject to conditions). Because Air Asia is one airline I track closely, I am compelled to explain their refund policy for this scenario in detail.

If you have an upcoming flight on Air Asia and wondering if you can cancel it for free, this post is for you.

Air Asia has announced their Corona Virus cancellation policy here
https://support.airasia.com/s/article/Covid-19-Refund-Request-Guide?language=en_GB

Below is a quick interpretation for you.
  • India domestic flights (I5) do not qualify for any kind of refund. Free rescheduling is offered if your travel date is before 31 March.
  • Don't expect full refund, except in select cases like Air Asia cancelling the flight. Almost all other cases only qualify for "Move flight", or Credit Account.
  • Passengers with tickets to select countries and select travel dates are eligible to move flight or take refund in credit account. For others, sorry!
  • Air Asia Move flight is an option where you can select a new travel date within 15-30 days of current travel date. (Similar to what other airlines refer to as "Rescheduling", but no need to pay fare difference)
  • Air Asia Credit account is where your money will be refunded in full, but not in cash. Amount will be credited to your Air Asia big account and YOU HAVE TO USE THIS WITHIN 90 DAYS, else this will lapse. One advantage is you can use the same money to fly anywhere else, not necessarily your original destination, but disadvantage is you've to decide and spend it within 90 days, irrespective of fares, irrespective of how worse Corona Virus scenario gets.
  • You don't qualify for any refund/rescheduling if the country you're headed to hasn't taken any drastic measures like revoking visa, declaring emergency etc. That is, if your destination is Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and various other countries on Air Asia network which haven't banned entry or sounded an alarm, then you have to either proceed with your trip or cancel without any refund.
What will happen to my prepaid meals, seat selection, baggage charges?
Unless your ticket qualifies for refund, all pre-paid add-on services are gone with the wind. Air Asia will not refund the amount paid for meal/baggage/seat selection etc if you don't fly. If I decide to cancel my flight and communicate it to airline a few days ahead of travel, in my opinion these pre-paid services should be fully refunded, as the service is not availed and there's no real loss to Air Asia. But airlines are reluctant to give back the money they have pocketed so will hide behind tricky refund policy and insist these are non refundable. I scanned Air Asia's policy thoroughly but couldn't find any assurance that add-on service fees will be refunded. Have asked them a question on twitter- will update if they reply. 

This is the very reason I never buy add-on services upfront with the ticket. Their prices are stable and do not increase exponentially as travel date comes closer- so there's no reason to select all of them up front. As travel date comes closer, selectively buy add-ons that you absolutely need. Lot of times cost of baggage will be more than cost of flight ticket. So you lose more on add-on service fees than on flight ticket fare.

What will happen if you have multiple PNRs?
If you have one ticket from India to KUL/DMK and a separate PNR for somewhere else from there, then things get more complicated. One PNR may qualify for refund/move-flight while other may not. Each PNR needs to be dealt individually.

How to avail refund/rescheduling?
Air Asia is trying to save cost by reducing call centre staff and automate things as much as possible. You can't just speak to someone and get things sorted. You've to deal with their chat bots and eforms and comply with all instructions 100% if you want your money back. I have written earlier about Air Asia's deliberately complicated refund policy- instead of giving a "Cancel" or "Modify" button next to a booking, they make the refund process so complicated, most people would give up in frustration.

For refund/credit account.
  • Open AirAsia.com 
  • Click on Chat with AVA icon in bottom right corner of the screen
  • Be patient while the chat window loads- may take several minutes to few hours.
  • Select COVID-19
  • Follow on screen instructions
Note: Using Chat app is not easy. After it loads (sometimes taking hours) Ask AVA chat app works only if your scenario matches 100% with the policy AirAsia has defined and you follow all instructions perfectly. If you have any queries, if your scenario is bit different from standard or if you want an option not offered there, then you will have more frustration.

Calling Air Asia customer care will NOT help for refund- they will mostly redirect you to the chat app. Rescheduling is best done with call centre, but be prepared for long waits.

So what to do if you don't qualify for a refund/rescheduling?

Option 1: Wait and watch: If your travel date is few months from now, wait and watch. If scenario improves you can travel as planned. If scenario worsens, Air Asia may update the policy or if flights are cancelled (or even if they undergo major rescheduling), you will be eligible to get full refund.

Unless your travel dates are immediate, it is best to wait and watch and take a decision closer to travel dates. As of now most policies are valid for travel dates till end of April only. But this may get extended early April depending on how corona virus crisis worsens.

Option 2: Take loss, cancel. You will be eligible to get airport tax component refunded, which could be few hundred to few thousand rupees only.

Option 3: Take risk and travel: Not a wise option, but it is an option if you are willing to take that much risk despite all the concerns. You may face quarantine on both onward or return journey, might end up infecting others-so at this moment travel is not advised.

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