Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SQ321 flight delay from London to Singapore

On 15 March 2009 10.15 pm, I am supposed to return to Singapore from London on A380, flight number SQ321. Unfortunately, the flight is delayed for 12 hours. I'll chronicle that journey in this blog.

On that day, I reached Heathrow at 8.15 pm but alas, at 9.30 pm, the notice board put up "gate opened at 22.50". And at 9.45 pm, they called passengers to collect 10 pounds voucher for meal. I sensed something is wrong, but still, voucher is good for supper. Amazingly little did I realize that shops in the airport open only till 10.00 pm! By the time I got my voucher (which is VERY early compared to other passengers), "TGIF" is no longer taking orders and only sandwiches shops are open. Slightly fed up, I ended up buying some "innocent" smoothies (which I have been craving for) and lots of snacks to bring home. I still can hold my head high and thought perhaps the flight will take place at 11 pm. I was quite happy when they told us to go into the gate at 11.30 pm. I thought finally we'll fly. So, the long queue to the boarding gate by the anxious passengers start. By the time we reached the gate, the bomb fell. The customer service officers said we are to stay overnight in the hotel since there is a hydraulic leak on the landing wheel. They said update will be available on 6 am the day after and hopefully the plane can fly between 8 to 10 am. So, they gave us a box of snack and told us to wait for bus transport.

Amazing thing happen during the waiting for the bus transport outside the airport after exiting from the custom. Noone seem to do a simple calculation: passengers divide by bus capacity equal number of bus required. So, around 20 of us were standing in the cold night waiting for a bus that never come. Basically a fleet of bus waited for the passengers but one more was required. Another simple math calculation missed is the number of overnight kit required. There were lots of passengers without the kit, which was distributed during the queue. I find it amusing for SIA not to have simple consideration as such in the procedure.

Not only that, apparently business class people is put up in Radissons Edwardian, the economy class in Premier Inn. What a difference. And to act a bit more responsibly (which is appreciated), those of us (economy passengers) waiting in the cold, they ended up putting us in Radissons. I thought, at that time, what a luck that there was no old persons with some problems in the queue. None of the customer service officers actually told us to take comfort in the bus waiting room while waiting for 20 minutes in the cold!

Upon reaching the hotel, we checked in and that's 00.45 am. I finally got my overnight kit at around 2 am I think. The overnight kit has an amusing oversight. It contained XL t-shirt and no underwears. O dear, some one in SIA actually think t-shirt is more important than underwear for people forced to do an overnight due to flight delay. I really want to know who has the hand on deciding the overnight kit and whether a proper need assessment has been done to decide the content!

In the morning, I thought someone will be nice enough to call to inform the arranged flight. But well, guess what, despite all the SIA being "world class", noone calls and people were expected to queue to get more information. What I learned during the queue was disturbing. Apparently the busines class passengers was booked on the normal flight at 10.55 am and they booked the economy class passengers to 10.05 pm for the night. Amazingly, apparently the business class passengers know about their booking into the new flight at 10.55 am from the night! Hence, the customer service officers provided misleading information to the economy class passengers. Now, that does not seem to be any fair to me. Where is the customer service standard? The rich rules?

So, the economy class passengers were told to spend time in the hotel. That's quite a bleak way to spend your day, isn't it? Then I went up to the assistant station manager of SIA in London and commented that I would have spent 60 hours on the same clothes by the time I reached Singapore on the midnight flight and asked for a solution. He amusingly told me that I can try to purchase an under garment and TRY to reimburse. Now, that's only a TRY and we can't even reimburse our trip out of hotel, how on earth would I be able to buy the under garment? No offer to purchase one for me or sort of things... what another minus note in the service. So, I dejectedly went back to my room and continued working.

At 10.48 am suddenly I was rang to be told a bus is coming to fetch the economy class passengers at 11.00 am to get the flight on 1.00 pm since the plane was fixed. Wow, 12 minutes to get down and my socks were wet since I washed them thinking I may be able to dry them by 10.00 pm. While ironing, I forgot about the time and only called the receptionist at 11.07 am to check and to be told that the bus was leaving without me and I was told to go down fast. Now, I was really about to be left by the bus and they NEVER even check the name of the passengers in the bus against the hotel list. What a good service!

Cut things short, we ended up in the plane at 1.15 pm and waited till around 2.45 pm for the plane to finally fly since there were 14 passengers not accounted for. Somehow, someone forgot to ask all the contact number of all passengers and never call all of them before deciding to enter people into the plane. And amazingly, snacks were not served to the starving passengers (remember that we entered the waiting room before lunch) until later than 2.00 pm.

I am strongly unimpressed by the SIA's customer service in London and what disturbs me is that no offer of compensation for the inconvenience is even mentioned. I believe there should be some measure for such but they seem to be avoiding that. My e-mail to them has gone unanswered. This really shows that SIA has a long way to go for the customer service to be first class. I wonder whether the next quality certification will find this issue?

1 comment:

Andiyanto said...

SIA offered me 7,500 miles or equivalent to 75 USD for "compensation" they do not usually give. I'm surprised that as a company claiming to have a certain standard, compensation for customer's inconvenience is said not to be practised. And further surprised by the 75 USD equivalent miles.... Travel insurance at least offer 1k SGD!