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I’m Back! And Malaysia Airlines SUCKS!

Hello good friends and random strangers!

I have returned from my tour of Southeast Asia, during which time I had many adventures but still missed you all terribly. I’m glad to see the site is still running smoothly thanks to the talent and hard work of my fellow ‘chicks. Thanks, ladies and Sam!

I’ll get back into the skeptical blogging soon enough, but first I wanted to get this one thing off my chest and onto the Internet: Malaysia Airlines is the worst piece of shit company I’ve ever encountered. I’m not even exaggerating. They were not just unprofessional–the Malaysia Airlines staff at the Kuala Lumpur airport customer service desk actually went out of their way to be as obnoxious, apathetic, and blisteringly stupid as possible. This has nothing to do with skepticism, so many of you may just want to skip this. The rest, read on and enjoy my pain.

The (abbreviated) story is this: my friend and I were traveling from Phuket to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur with a three-hour layover. Once in Singapore, we had three and seven hours before our flights back to our respective homes in London and New York.

Because Malaysia Airlines’ plane had some mechanical trouble, possibly because it’s a piece of shit they found in a junkyard somewhere, we got to Kuala Lumpur late–15 minutes before our connecting flight was scheduled to leave. Despite the fact that the employees repeatedly promised us that the plane would be held for us, we were rebuffed and laughed at by the security guards and gate agents once we ran the kilometer to get there while the plane was still at the gate. This began two hours of hellish torture during which the Malaysia Airlines customer service team stared at us blankly, lied to us repeatedly, and refused to either put us on another airline’s flight to Singapore (as they had no others that night)  or help us get any closer to home on their own planes. At one point I suggested that they just put me on a flight to London that they had leaving that night. They wandered off, stared into the middle distance for awhile, checked their cell phone messages, and eventually said no. “Why,” I asked. They considered the question awhile, then said it was too late. I asked again and the answer changed: the ticket was “the wrong kind.”

I then suggested they change my Qatar Airways ticket to leave from that airport that night instead of from Singapore, which would still allow me to make my connection in Qatar. They talked on the phone awhile with Qatar, stared a bit, wandered away, came back, checked their cell phone messages, and finally said no. “Why,” I asked. This confused them. More staring and wandering, before the answer came: “The fees to change the ticket are too high.” “How much?” “Over 1,000 dollars.” “Really. So pay it.” “No.” “But it’s your fault I’m missing the flight.” “Yes.” “So pay it.” “No.”

I demanded that they call Qatar Airways and hand me the phone. The representative said, “Yes there is a fee, but Malaysia Airways should pay it.” “But they won’t.” “Why not?” “Because they’re assholes.” “Oh.” “How much is the fee, exactly?” “It is 1,350 ringgit.”



“Ringgit, not US or Singapore dollars.”


“That’s $400.”


To end the pain, I paid the fee and ran to catch the flight, where I was pampered with delicious food and free alcoholic beverages and competent staff. Thank you, Qatar Airways. Fuck you, Malaysia Airways. As I tweeted soon after the incident, I hope everyone at the Malaysia Airways customer service desk in Kuala Lumpur gets rabies. That is all.

(The rest of the trip was lovely, thanks.)

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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  1. You should try CAAC airlines. Civil Aviation Association of China, or as it’s more commonly known: China Almost Always Crashed.

    I’d never been frightened by a flight until them.

  2. It’s entirely possible they were holding out for a bribe. We never would have made it out of Bombay without the help of a local friend. My dad spent a vexing two hours arguing with India Airlines. Our friend fixed the problem in about five minutes with $20.

  3. This is an extraordinary terrible story. So, I’m going to ask for some extraordinary evidence. I’m sorry, but I can’t just take your word for this.

    BTW, did you happen to see the Ankor Wat? It’s a World Wonder in my Civ game.

  4. Qatar Airways is amazing, love that airline. Wish they named it Air Qatar however, then I could have done Bill and Ted impressions all the way to Bangkok.

  5. I don’t want to sound ignorant or anything, but is bribing popular in that culture? I’ve noticed it a lot when dealing with people in the medical industry. I used to do some marketing for a small durable medical equipment company that would rent out wheelchairs/walkers/canes etc. to home healthcare agencies and people from that area of the world were notorious for wanting/accepting bribes.

    Once when I was trying to get an account, when I walked in and handed out my information the lady just stared at me and asked “Is there anything else you could do for us?”

    I swear I was expecting a *wink wink* *nudge nudge*

  6. @Surly Nymph: We spent a week traveling around Malaysia and not only did we never have to bribe a single person, but people were so shockingly generous with their time and money that I couldn’t believe they weren’t all trying to get something from us.

    So, that’s why it never occurred to us at that point…

  7. Thats very unfortunate.. I flew with them many times when I lived in Singapore 8/9 years ago and they were good enough that I just about couldnt tell them apart from Singapore airlines! standards must’ve slipped a fair bit over the years

    and I never came across any need for bribery over there.. they refused tips most of the time!

    Glad you came out of it all more or less unscathed though

  8. @Rebecca: That’s wonderful! It has to be the few people here that others have encountered thus starting stupid rumors. I would have never even thought about it until someone mentioned bribing above.

  9. @Surly Nymph: I can’t speak for Malaysia, but bribing officials in Korea was pretty common when I was there 20 years ago. Occasionally a bit of paperwork “couldn’t be processed” until cash was passed over.

    It was an annoying minority of interactions that had to go that way, and only with people involved in some kind of bureaucracy. Most of the time, it never came up.

  10. Rebecca – I am glad you are home, and glad you had a good time, but sad you had such a hassle with the airline.

    Will you be posting about your adventures soon? I hope so…

  11. Reminds me of my last — and I do mean last — trip on Delta. Amazes me they haven’t gone out of business yet. I’ll skip to the end: they kept us waiting in line to book the next flight until 6 the next morning; I suspect so that it would be too late for us to get hotel rooms, which they would otherwise have been legally required to provide for us. Then I discovered that the food vouchers they gave us for breakfast weren’t accepted at most places in the terminal because Delta never paid their bills.

  12. You mis-spelled Malaise Airlines.

    Also, the message doesn’t specify how or where the rabies bite should be delivered. May we assume in the face by bears?

  13. Don’t think of it as a bribe, more like a tip. The situation becomes, they do what they should be doing, and then I introduce them to my good friend Andy Jackson

  14. Sounds awful! It’s great to hear how wonderful everyone else you encountered on the trip was.

    I just got back from Switzerland and found to my shame (I had been really bad mouthing Switzerland) that people were so friendly and helpful I was afriad they were going to try to get me to smuggle drugs for them or lock me in a cellar for torture. No, they were just really nice and really did want to take you to the clock that had dancing bears. (It’s a strange but friendly place, and just WHERE do they keep their homeless people?)

    Anyway, please tell us of your adventures which hopefully do not include a clock with dancing bears.

  15. Where did you get to on your travels/ Any good tips? I got to Thailand two months ago, teaching English here for a year so I’m always looking for recommendations for weekends away :) Tips on airlines to avoid are equally welcome…

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