Thai Airways Takes Passenger to Court For Flight Delay Criticism On Facebook

Thai Airways is suing a passenger who complained about them online. The customer questioned the airline’s decision to divert a Bangkok – Melbourne flight to Sydney, leading to a four hour delay. Since the airline says that the crew “followed international safety and security standards” they believe they need to protect their “reputation and that of its personnel.”

Thai Airways’ response and legal proceedings against the passenger reflect its commitment to maintaining a high standard of safety and security, while also safeguarding its reputation against harmful and inaccurate public perceptions.

On January 28, Thai Airways flight 465 from Bangkok to Melbourne diverted to Sydney due to low visibility at the arrival airport. They didn’t circle Melbourne waiting for clearer conditions. Approaching fuel minimums they landed in Sydney instead, making it to their destination a little over four hours late.

A passenger went on Facebook, complaining about the captain’s judgment – they were carrying too little fuel, and the pilot wasn’t sufficiently ‘assertive’ with air traffic control. However blogger Captain Faisal pushed back on the platform, noting several other diversions at the same time.

He stressed that weather reports for aviation are specialised and not included in standard smartphone weather apps. Captain Faisal further addressed the accusations by stating that the fuel on board complied with legal requirements and that the decision to divert was in line with universal safety standards. He also addressed the language proficiency of Thai pilots, stating that they must pass aviation English exams to be allowed to fly.

The passenger deleted their post and apologized, and even “planned to apologise personally to the captain and Thai Airways management upon returning to Thailand.” Now they’re being sued.

  • This is the government punishing criticism. The largest owner of Thai Airways is the government of Thailand. At least this is a civil case. In that country, insults and criticism of the king (lèse-majesté) is punishable under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code.

  • I’m not sure what reputation this protects? The case seeks to protect the reputation of an airline… with established bribery in its acquisition of aircraft and engines (Rolls Royce even admitted to paying over $35 million in bribes). The airline doubled award prices at one point in 2019, and the Star Alliance member suspended Star Alliance redemptions for the pandemic – members couldn’t use their miles. Yet they’re defending their ‘reputation’ by suing a passenger who complained about a flight diversion online and then apologized for doing so. And am I at risk on my next visit to the country, having criticized their mileage program devaluations?

Doesn’t pursuing this case hurt Thai’s reputation? Sort of like the Thai hotel that sent an American to jail for writing a bad review losing business after pursuing the case? It seems to me you wouldn’t want to stay at a hotel that sends its guests to jail over online comments. Plus, Streisand effect.

While Thailand is a place where offense is easily taken and acted upon through the courts, it isn’t the only place where travelers face legal jeopardy. In the U.S. a man was arrested for booking a hotel rate he wasn’t entitled to. British Airways says they can close your mileage account if you criticize them. Aeroflot actually has revoked elite status from critics.

(HT: Jeff W)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Pilot was correct to divert , always safety first . The people are nice , person to person . But , as in Burma , best to keep criticism to oneself .

  2. Feels like a great example of the Streisand effect. Who cares if someone posts complaints on a website? People who post complaints online are sad nobodies, myself included.

    Or maybe I should say thank you American Airlines for not suing me for calling you mega dumpy, basic and uncaring in these forums. That’s swell of youz guyz.

  3. The passenger didn’t have all of the facts yet he felt compelled to complain. In some countries you complain at your own risk. This was one of those cases. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this.

  4. Gary, It sounds like maybe you should avoid going to Thailand for a while. They might not like what you have had to say either.

  5. @jns … +1 . The passenger was indeed uninformed ( ie, ignorant ) akin to Plato’s allegory of people in a cave who know nothing more than their surroundings . The passenger knows nothing more than what he sees on his mobile phone , and is uninformed ( ie, ignorant ) of everything outside of his mobile phone world .

  6. One should be aware that in Thailand defamation is actually a jailable offense like criticize the royal family is. Save the complaint until you’re home, where they can’t do anything about it.

  7. Thailand is not all smiles. It is a wonderful place with wonderful people but there is absolutely a different perspective on law and order. Slamming any company that is deeply connected with the government is going to be trouble. 1st amendment and freedom of speech rights along with what is perceived as defaming will be vastly different when you travel.

  8. @SMR
    EXACTLY! I’ve even seen signs at customs in the airport that tells people that they’re constitutional rights no longer apply beyond this point. I wish every emigration point had that.

  9. @SMR , @Daniel … Agree with both . Legal problems are unwelcome . I am disabled and cannot bend over , and I am Still Anxious about accidently dropping a piece of paper on a walkway in the former DDR , (East Germany) .

  10. Crazy how Loyalty Lobby that is all over everything Thailand is quiet like a mouse here while claiming compensation points for bad stays at 60 dollar a night hotels

  11. I believe the passenger should be allowed to say/post as they please. The internet is full of misinformation and ill-formed opinions. Let the public glean what they will from the comment.
    I would think Thai airways has better things to do than worry about the opinion of 1.

  12. It is an unfortunate action by the airline. Not the first time a passenger was second guessing a crew’s actions in correctly. But to sue them ??? A poor and insecure reflection on the airline itself. Just respond in the appropriate places and leave it at that.

  13. Typical thin-skinned Thai response to criticism. Very spiritual people, with highly developed egos.

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