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An Experience on Singapore Airlines

I often fly to Singapore and SQ is one of my favorites.
Having said that, this one trip was not the best one. I have had issues in the past with broken baggage but the service recovery has been great. I have had in flight entertainment not working on my seat (twice) and again very well handled.

And at times when you are in love with something it’s also your duty to give the feedback to the other person. You do that with your best friend, your child your wife so why not with your favorite airline….

And I ended up writing to the India GM for Singapore Airlines – Mr David Lau on June 02, 2014. And while I did get a quick revert from Mr. Lau stating that they will get back to me. Within 2 days I had a detailed one as well.

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Dear Mr. Lau

At the outset let me begin by saying that I am a hardcore loyalist of your esteemed airline and along with that the Star Alliance members. And as a loyal consumer I feel it’s also my responsibility to give you feedback that can help in strengthening the airlines position in this competitive environment.

I was on board the flight SQ 406 from Singapore to Delhi on 31 May 2014 and also experienced the A380 with its 2nd flight on that route. I recently flew to Sydney as well and it’s a brilliant piece of machinery and creativity.

For this flight to Delhi, the check-in happened at around 3 pm and I had ample time to enjoy the hospitality at the lounge. Everything went great so far.

Experience 1:
On board the food was served and somehow I felt that every one was in a hurry. A SIN-DEL flight has enough time usually to cater to every one. Unless they were still staffed as per the regular flight as against A380.

I was served the International Non Veg selection on my seat 45C. The crew person had no rolls with her and promised to come back to me. Nothing happened.

I kept pressing the call button, no attention was provided. No worries- I can live without Carbs in one meal.

Experience 2:
Next to me were an elderly couple (45 A and B) and looked like parents returning back after visiting their children from Singapore or May be distant far and may be their first flight!!

They asked for Indian veg meal and were told that the veg selection was over. It was only row 45 so was a bit amazed. The elderly man in his broken English and a soft voice insisted that they told the agent for veg meal. The crew was adamant though that the selection requests did not reach the airline. No worries again. Promises made “I will get back to you with some possible options”

No one turned up. Though some bread, Indian Roti, Curd, a fruit could have saved the day for them.

Experience 3:
The descend to Delhi was a horrible experience with scary air pockets that the plane had to navigate from. The captain did a great job of managing that except for a very very hard landing. Also on board the body language of the crew sitting right in front of me had a different tale to tell. Eyes tightly shut and remembering Jesus (loud enough for me to hear in row 45 which is the 2nd row in that block) was not going well with the front line passengers.

Experience 4:
The experience of an airline is not just on board. And I am sure you will agree it starts from booking to check in to flying and later to get the luggage before moving out.

On arrival at Delhi airport after a delayed flight ( thanks to air traffic congestion) and a scary bumpy one (owing to the natural conditions), there was a long wait first for the immigration (beyond your controls). This was followed later by a long wait for baggage till the belt stopped bringing in more bags.

On inquiring with the ground staff who was carrying a torn piece of paper with some names scribbled on it, we realized that the bags have not come from Singapore due to breakdown of some belt system.

And then the ordeal started. Why the wait for an hour if the ground staff had details of missing bags in the first place.

There were families, old people and every one wanted a solution. The solution was that airline needs to fill in 2 forms – custom clearance and another one for airline record with contact details.

(Also for record the AIRTEL signal at this desk is very weak and while everyone wants to talk to their family to pass a message of them getting delayed, even that seemed to be a concern)

Problem here was that there seemed to be one lady on counter and managing this without any display screen behind her to at least list names of passengers. We had to then request her to at least give us the custom clearance forms for us to fill on our own. With anger levels going up we demanded more staff to join her and finally they did. In this ordeal I must mention the ground crew manager – the only one in tie and jacket was not at all leading from the front. Ordering his team to do this and that, depending on which passenger is shouting is not the way this needs to be handled. Finally I had to tell him to stop doing that and take a pen in his hand and start filling forms himself.

I arrived back in India after a weeks trip to Singapore where I am relocating by Mid June. And I had a flight to Dubai on Sunday morning and my baggage was now missing.

Good news it was to come by the morning flight and it did at 545 am and I got my bag at 830 am on 01 June before I moved out from my house again at 0900 am to catch my Dubai flight.

So to summarize and being from the hospitality industry – mistakes and system breakdown does happen but what is important is service recovery and handling of those mistakes. On this not so fateful flight it seemed like every thing was breaking apart.

Today my faith has shaken a bit. Will I get my parents to visit me via SQ, Will I take SQ for my relocation with family … Only time will tell.

I am writing this on board Jet Airways flight to Dubai and indeed carrying my luggage. So that’s one tick I am going with so far.

Best Regards,
Tarandeep Singh

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Reply received:

Dear Mr Tarandeep Singh,

1. Thank you for your patience whilst we look into your concerns. Further to my interim email reply on 2 June/Monday, allow me to offer the following explanations to your concerns:

Experience 1 : We operate all our flights with the full crew complement. SQ406 was quite full in economy class on 31 May. That the meal service was hurried and our crew failing to provide rolls despite your reminders (calls for attention) is poor servicing on our part and I would like to extent my apologies. We pride ourselves in offering a warm and personalised inflight service and you are right to expect this consistently on all our flights. Your feedback has been forwarded to our crew operating SQ406/31 May.

Experience 2: Regarding the elderly couple, there was indeed no prior vegetarian meal request made by them. We normally uplift vegetarian meals according to booking requests plus some buffer in case of last-minute requests onboard the flights. On this occasion we had ran out of these meals. That said, I totally agree with you that a make-shift vegetarian alternative like rotis or fruits would have appeased the couple. This service failure has been notified to our Head Office Cabin Crew Division.

Experience 3 : Weather conditions were poor at the time of flight approach into Delhi. There were lightning and dust storm warnings with wind-speeds of 30-40 knots which our flight crew had to meander around for customers’ comfort. There was no threat to the flight per se and the aircraft landed normally. We will certainly look into the behaviour of our cabin crew that did not inspire confidence.

Experience 4 : Due to a breakdown of the Baggage Handling System in Singapore, a number of checked-in bags were not loaded onto the flight. Two of our staff were initially deployed at the baggage belt to identify and assist passengers with missing bags. A Duty Officer and more staff were eventually assigned at a later stage to supplement the two staff. I understand our duty staff did attend to you that evening and also offered apologies. We are glad we could deliver your bags in time for your next day’s flight.

We could have performed far better under the circumstances. Given the full flight, we could have prepared better to assist customers with their missing baggage. We could also have readied a proper signboard to address affected customers and prepare the necessary baggage/Customs forms in advance. A main reason for the delayed preparations was station did not receive timely information from Singapore regarding the missing baggage. This is an internal lapse which we are following-up with our handlers in Singapore.

2. Mr Singh, my gratitude again for taking the time to write to me. Your feedback is invaluable in helping us improve. The A380 is a new experience for all of us in India. In taking pride with operating the first A380s to India, we also owe it to our loyal customers such as yourself to ensure we meet your highest expectations. We know we have disappointed you and our other customers on this occasion and I offer my sincere apologies.

3. As a gesture of goodwill, I would like to offer you 10,000 Krisflyer Miles which will be credited directly into your KrisFlyer account. We look forward to welcoming you onboard our flights again in the near future, and certainly to be of better service to you.

Kind regards,
David Lau
General Manager India
Singapore Airlines Limited

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June 4, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments