Singapore Airlines becomes selective

IN the past month and a half, I travelled on Singapore Airlines (SIA) between Singapore and Hong Kong and between Singapore and Cape Town, South Africa. I flew economy.

When you fly SIA, you will look forward to a pleasant, comfortable and enjoyable flight. It is always one with expectations. Inevitably, you do not compare SIA with other airlines, but with what you have known the airline to be.

The in-flight entertainment is a big plus for its wide range of movies, in particular the latest box office hits. But imagine what happens when the system is defective where you are sitting. No doubt the affected passenger usually gets some form of compensation, but it hardly makes up for the disappointment. This is what I mean by expectations, when you fly SIA. It has happened. Fortunately, it didn’t happen to me this time.

I find overall, the service is still good, but I observed during these trips how it is beginning to become selective, perhaps unintentionally.

On the HKG-SIN leg, the crew heaped a mound of attention on a passenger in the seat just in front of me, all too visibly, although he appeared to want to be left alone. “Can I help with the bags?” “Can I get you a drink?” “Are you sure you don’t want one?” “Can I get you the papers?” “Is there anything else?” “What about….?” Perhaps they had a reason to want to appease him over something. Or that he was some important person.

As legitimate as it may be, it becomes awkwardly servile and even distasteful to others who were watching the overdose of fuss heaped upon this particular passenger for reasons unknown to them, and they too might wish they had a little of that attention, especially when they asked for assistance that was slow in coming. I asked for the papers but, though promised, never got them. This observation aside, I always wonder why the crew would not come down the aisle with the papers (they used to) as they did with headsets and menu cards, but would go fetch the papers only when asked.

Interestingly, on the flights between Singapore and Cape Town, the crew were kept busy shuttling up and down the aisle to fetch packets of peanuts when asked. It started with one passenger, then others hitched on. One passenger was given a few packets. Then another passenger, given one packet, asked for more. And more. Why not just distribute one packet to each passenger as the airline used to do? Guess it had to do with cost-cutting.

During the meal service on the flight to Cape Town, a couple (a Caucasian man and his female Chinese companion) seated midway down the aisle were served their meals first, ahead of others. Not that they had pre-ordered special meals such as vegetarian (a plus point for SIA, by the way, is how the crew would serve children first). Perhaps they were known to the crew. who actually pushed the trolley up to where they were seated, then backtracked to start with the first row. And why, for some passengers, the crew asked only if they would have a particular meal and not offered a choice unless they asked, having read the menu card, if they could have the other?

That’s what I meant by being selective in service, which is legitimate if differentiated by class, but not a good thing within the same class. It suggests discrimination, though not intended.

As for the meals, they were quite disappointing even as it is generally acknowledged that in-flight meals – whichever airline you fly – are nothing to rave about. For future reference, I will avoid the sandwich in any form! Perhaps I had grown tired of the familiarity, but by comparison, Air Canada and Cathay Pacific offer better fares.

It is not easy to climb to the top of the service ladder, and harder to always stay tops, therein lies the challenge for SIA as one of the world’s best airlines.

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About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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