Airlines

Try Try Again: First Time Booking Malaysian’s Firefly Airlines

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The next couple of months are going to be hectic with work and with travel, so taking the time now to get everything figured out and booked for my summer trip to Koh Samui.

I’m hoping to spend a few days in Penang, Malaysia as part of the trip and was really excited to find a $0 promo fare! Just $20 in taxes. The regular ticket price was $80 for the 40 minute flight from Kuala Lumpur, so this was a huge savings. I immediately started the booking process which reminded me a bit of Ryan Air (and probably Spirit though I’ve never booked a flight on them).

After entering in the traveler information you have the option to spend ~$5 per person to pre-select a basic seat. Not even a good seat, that will cost even more.

Firefly Airlines pay for seat selection

On the next page is the typical travel insurance option. Except to actually opt out you have to read it so you know to click on the “Remove” link in the description.

Firefly Airlines travel insurance

Underneath that is the option to pre-pay for additional baggage. I had assumed that things would be a little cheaper in Malaysia, but at $20+ to add weight, that’s pretty much on par with the US.

Firefly Airlines baggage charge

If two people are on the itinerary you have the option to pay market rates and pre-schedule a taxi to pick you up. Then the next customized option is the ability to pay to change your mind. For roughly ~$17 you can reduce the cost of changing your ticket in the future.

Firefly Airlines prepaid change fee

Since you’d still need to pay the difference in fare, that definitely wasn’t worth it for us!

And where you input your contact information and address, they offer the option is to pay ~$.66 to have flight alerts sent to your phone. I’m valuing the free alerts you can subscribe to on Expedia, Orbitz, and most US airlines quite a bit more.

Firefly Airlines pay for SMS updates

I got through each of these stages and was ready to buy! It only gave the option of Mastercard or Visa, so I put in my Chase Sapphire information. And was declined. I tried it again, with no success. So I picked one of my Mastercard options and was also declined. I tried my other Mastercard. Nope.

I wasn’t completely surprised I was having trouble, since in the address part of the web form I only had the option of picking Oregon or California as my state, but figured it was more likely that it was a fraud alert problem.

Firefly 2 US state options

I’d expected to get an automatic phone call or text, but decided to just proactively call one of the credit card companies to check. Not only was there not a problem, they didn’t show Firefly having submitted a charge. I called the other two companies with the same result.

I really really wanted to save the $120 on those flights, plus I was excited about landing an old-fashioned $0 fare, so I decided to try the mobile app. I downloaded it to my phone, jumped through all the extra services hoops to get to the payment page, only to have the same result. Except this time I also had the option of paying with American Express. Weird.

That transaction was also declined. At this point I’d been trying for almost 2 hours, so I gave up and went to bed. The next morning, being an obstinate soul, I tried again. This time an American Express option was available on the website and I got a confirmation code. But I also got a message saying that my reservation was only on hold til 8 PM local time and I needed to call the Malaysian call centre.

I logged in for details and discovered my credit card had been declined. Again. Well, saving $120 was worth going to the trouble of a Skype call to Malaysia so I added it to my to-do list. Unfortunately my work day was busier than I thought and I didn’t have a chance to call til 6PM. I referenced my reservation to get my confirmation code and saw that I’d missed the window of opportunity (not surprising) and the itinerary was permanently cancelled.

But when I went back to the website I saw the fare was still available. So I decided to try one more time, since this time I could contact the call centre immediately afterwards. Of course my reservation went through with no problem!

The only thing I can figure is that the website either had a temporary glitch or I just happened to catch it in the midst of an upgrade. For now, the effort was worth the savings, and if paying for any extra service is what makes the $0 fares possible, I’m not complaining. That said, I’ll be interested to see how much my $20 flight actually “costs” me this summer.

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6 Comments

  1. Rapid Travel Chai

    January 16, 2014 at 2:09 am

    This is typical of the Southeast Asian airlines. Sometimes cards with Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode go through, but often all foreign cards are rejected with no notice that this is policy. American Express, if accepted, like for Air Asia, sometimes works.

    I am dealing with some Indonesia tickets at the moment with the same issues.

    Best backup is local booking sites like zuji or tiket that often are better, if the fare is available.

  2. Lisa T.

    January 16, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Yup, same thing happened to me 2 years ago when I was trying a book a ticket from KHH-HKG-TPE from Hong Kong Air. My AMEX was declined twice before I tried my Capital One card and it was finally accepted 2 days after I booked my ticket…

  3. Michelle

    July 17, 2015 at 1:24 am

    Thanks to your post, I finally found the elusive ‘Remove’ button to opt-out of paying for travel insurance. I almost wanted to book another airline because I hate being made to pay for something I didn’t want. Thanks again!

  4. Christian

    October 4, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Great post Keri!

    I’m going insane trying to book some tickets from firefly… Have tried 3 Visas and 2 mastercards but no matter what, the payments aren’t accepted. Even the most amateurish airlines must be interested in selling tickets, so I don’t really get the concept here. Unfortunately I haven’t got a Mastercard, but like you I’ll try and give them a call during their opening hours 🙂

    All the best – and good to see I’m not alone with my frustrations.
    Cheers, Christian

    • Keri Anderson

      October 4, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      Best of luck to you!

      • Christian

        October 5, 2015 at 3:40 pm

        Just a quick update (for you and anyone else stumbling on this post).
        After speaking to Firefly they recommended I tried a different browser. I’d only been using Chrome… Using Explorer 10 my payment went through immediately. What a relief 🙂

        All the best
        Christian

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