Final Update – Singapore’s Response to Defective IFE, Seats,and Food Mishaps in First

Some of you may remember the completely unexpected and uncharacteristic problems I ran into during my first ever Singapore First award trip to Bali back in January. I flew from IAH-DME-SIN-DPS for 70k United MileagePlus miles (booked during the Singapore glitch), but had a non-functioning TVbroken seat that would not recline, and food incidents(hair in the dish and food poisoning) on two legs of the trip…both in first class! Some of the more memorable excerpts

….that’s when all hell broke loose. It started with a long line for the bathrooms and several passengers holding their stomachs. I then saw the line lengthen and flight attendants were handing out vomit bags and water bottles. I knew exactly what this was about…back in The Private Room (TPR), a few Point Me to the Plane readers who traveled on both the IAH-DME and DME-SIN legs, asked me if I was feeling OK. I said I was fine, though they said they were feeling very nauseous. They couldn’t even stand to look at food. I thought it was strange that more than one person was feeling ill, but I really didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until I saw several of the business and first passengers from the previous flights lined up for the bathroom, that I knew something was very wrong….

Unfortunately, there was one problem with my baked clams appetizer…a nice long piece of hair was added to the dish for extra flavoring. 

However, there was a problem with my chair. It would not recline at all. The controls were not functioning and the seat had to be reset. They tried several times without any luck and then told me they could manually recline the seat each time or I could switch to the open seat that had a defective in-flight entertainment unit…my TV suddenly stopped working.  The crew reset my unit three times and then tried resetting the entire system with no luck. The system came back on but would play everything in slow motion with no sound.

Singapore first responded back in February and I thought their compensation offer was a little stingy, most readers thought it was just plain horrible. For a flight with an average first class fare of $8000 each way, they offered me $242 voucher. They would not discuss the food poisoning issue at all as they had only “received reports of 22 passenger complaints. Reports of 40 or more are required to investigate airline responsibility“.  OK, so forgetting my 24 hours of sickness, $242 still seemed off for an inoperable seat and TV in first class and some hair in my dish. With the coaxing of several readers, I responded back to the airline and received a response a few weeks ago in June. Essentially, they felt their initial offer was appropriate but would be forwarding the details on to senior management. Interestingly enough, reader reaction to that post was split:

Dave said – yeah SGD300 was too much for a broken IFE or seat… hair in food is not life threatening, only 22 people not feeling well – they could have gotten that from the lounge devouring. plus you only spent 70k miles, SQ has to make a living somehow.

Jonathan remarked – Firstly, the fact that the fare is normally $8,000 is irrelevant. The cost incurred by you was 70k miles.
Secondly, you were only able to book this flight due to the airline’s error. It’s questionable whether they were even obligated to honor the deal to begin with. Thirdly, the flight attendants made a good effort to accommodate you. In light of all of the above, I have to agree with SQ. $242 is fair compensation for the minor inconveniences you experienced.

Milezjunkie and Manoj seemed to understand my reasoning that compensation should be evaluated regardless of whether the ticket was purchased with cash or redeemed with miles:

Milezjunkie –You think SQ is letting award flyers on the plane for free? They’re paid by United. It’s not the full amount but its the amount they’ve agreed to accept for the class of service they offer. And do you think Point Me got completely free miles??? Even if he got them from a credit card sign up they were paid for, by the bank. If they were earned by credit card spend then he essentially paid for them as well because alternatively a cash back card would have given cash in lieu of miles. With your logic, if Starbucks gave you a free coffee after buy 30 coffees and your “free” coffee was just a cup of urine you wouldn’t complain. I’m sure that is likely.

Manoj – I think they should offer a 1 way upgrade from Coach to Biz or Biz to First; or refund half the miles. It is a small goodwill gesture to a passenger that was in F, regardless of whether it was a mileage ticket or not or it was booked in error. A passenger in F should get a F class product experience – the experience should not change based on what was paid.

Well, this morning I received word from Singapore once again, here’s a copy of that letter:

VIA EMAIL

Dear Mr Point Me to the Plane

Thank you for your email of 19 June 2013.

Please be assured that our management is aware of your experience onboard flight SQ61 /10 January 2013, and we sincerely apologise once again that your in-flight experience on this occasion had not met your expectations. We note that the audio facility of the in-flight entertainment system at your seat 2F (Houston-Moscow) was not functioning properly during the flight and we would like to share that this has since been rectified. While we understand that our crew was able to offer you a seat change to 1A, we acknowledge the disappointment caused in this regard as that seat was without proper in-flight entertainment system. Based on our findings, instead our crew had assisted you in manually adjusting your footrest to the required level for the Moscow-Singapore sector. However, based on our records, we confirm there were seat defects recorded at seats 1A and 2F for both sectors. 

That being said, we truly regret that our product delivery in these aspects had caused you disappointment.  We will ensure that our engineers intensify their pre-flight checks to ensure that our cabin facilities are functioning properly on our flights, and also have our Food and Beverage Manager work closely with our caterers to ensure that they continue to adhere closely to our strict food preparation guidelines. We hope that you will allow us the privilege of serving you better in future.

We have reviewed your case further and we would like to credit 15,000 miles into your KrisFlyer account in addition to the transportation voucher previously offered. The miles are valid for three years and can be used for future flight redemption.

We hope that you will consider our offer favourably, Mr Point Me to the Plane. We look forward to hearing from you.

I’ve already gone ahead and responded in acceptance of the offer for 15K miles and $242 USD. I don’t want to devote any more time to a flight I took six months ago and this certainly seems like their final offer. Interesting though that it took several emails for them to provide the full details of their investigation,  finally acknowledging and confirming the broken seat, food mishaps, defective IFE, and the fact that if I switched from the non reclining seat, I’d be without any IFE. After all that, they felt that this was the appropriate compensation.  What do you think?

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  1. Take it and get some sleep. Both of you have had this lingering for longer than is healthy and both parties now look like fools. Get a life and move on.

    • I second this notion.

      We live in a world replete with wonders and fascinations, and yet some people insist on allowing their short lives to be consumed with meaningless trivialities such as this one.

      @adam – I hope you enjoy those 15k miles, though I’m sure they can’t even begin to compensate you for all of the emotional pain you endured as a result of seeing that strand of hair in your food.

      • @Jonathan – Thanks. Again, I think you are completely missing the point of the post. It was not about hair in the food, but the overall experience. Little to no time was spent on this at all (besides writing these posts). I simply RESPOND to their comments and initial offer, yes the flight crew had already documented everything as per SQ standards. From my trip report – “At the end of the flight, the lead flight attendant asked if he could speak to me for a few moments. He told me that he had written up the problem with the seat and also attached the problems about the TV and food from the previous flight. He wanted me to know that he had contacted Customer Service at the Silver Kris Lounge at Terminal 2, where my connecting flight would be departing from, and that I should go and speak to them as they were waiting for me. He even offered to escort me there. I thanked him for his assistance and told him that the service on both flights was incredible.” “Upon arriving, an agent was already waiting for me and invited me to sit down. I didn’t need to do much as she already had reports from both crews. She wanted to know my email address, my United MileagePlus number, and how many miles I spent on the ticket. I provided all of the information and she told me I should hear back in 3-5 days…”

  2. Food poisoning is one thing … but a hair, come on. I agree it is yucky, but you seriously have never seen your mom’s hair in the dish growing up?

    • @Alexander – Not a high maintenance person here (believe it or not) and the hair itself wasn’t my point. This is Singapore First and the hair combined with food poisoning, broken seats, and non-functioning IFE is why I wrote in.

  3. You should be put in the “black list” of Singapore Airlines and never be allowed to travel with them again. They don’t need customers like you.

    • @Fahid – For what reason? Singapore charges customers a premium over other carriers and therefore is expected to deliver. Broken TVs and chairs don’t fit with that expectation.

  4. I think Singapore behaved poorly in this regard. If you book a First or Business Class seat–whether it be using money or miles–you should have the expectation of Singapore service and excellence. That was not delivered in this instance. Singapore could take a page from Aman hotels, which consistently charges more (as does Singapore for its premier product in many ways) but always delivers and acknowledges its errors in a way that always leaves us wanting to return.

    For those who think that paying by miles should relieve Singapore of their responsibility, or mitigate it, or that getting the mileage ticket through an error should, you do not understand commerce. If you are going to offer a product, no matter HOW it is obtained, once you do offer the product it is in your domain now to make sure it delivers. As a business owner, I recognize that full well. Most consumers do not–and therefore do not ask for compensation when it is deserved.

    • @Billq – Agree with everything you’ve stated here. I expected the highly regarded Singapore First service that they market so well (even on an award ticket), yet my experience fell short in several areas.

  5. I think that you did the right thing by contacting them twice. I am glad that you got additional compensation as you did not get what you had “paid” for.

  6. Flew in SQ suites back in Feb on SIN-CDG segment. Flight was wonderful and I was the only person in F.

    However, flight attendant spilled red wine on me and one of the glasses was chipped /w sharp edge.

    SQ offered SGD 200 duty free in-flight voucher. After some pushback they threw in extra 10,000 miles.

    Stingy doesn’t even start describing them!

  7. This is hysterical. They low-balled you again.

    The corporate shills above have no concept of what a good airline would do to make this right.

    “Only 22 people sick on our flight” is laughable. They need 40 to make it official? So if 39 are vomitting throughout the flight, passengers receive nothing?

    AA gives you 5-10K miles just for broken audio on a DOMESTIC flight. SQ is supposed to be the best airline in the sky! I think 35K miles AT A MINIMUM is what is in store here. Food poisening is serious as it can ruin vacations. I’d not let this rest until I was satisfied.

    And for all you out there who think SQ went beyond and above the call, I guess you are happy if you have bed bugs in seat, eBoli in your food and no entertainment system to relax by. Why don’t they just put our blogger out on the wing or, better yet, put him in the cargo hold with the livestock?

    Sheesh. This sounds like THE FLIGHT FROM HELL: bad seat, food poisening (I’m sure the bathrooms were lovely!) and no entertainment!

    Don’t let SQ get away with this.

  8. so @bigredbears receives $200 voucher and 10K points for having wine spilled on him whereas you receive $242 and 15K for being food poisened, a not working seat and no IFE!

    Hello? I think we see the disparity here. More is needed from SQ

  9. Well my apology my post was intended to be sarcastic and I am totally with Adam (and Michael) on the IFE & food poisoning issue. 22 people getting sick is not a coincidence…but I need to work on being more straightforward. thanks Adam for sharing the experience from which I learned something. BigRedBears got maybe over-the-board compensation but that does not change the way how Adam’s was.

  10. I think SQ handled it well. I am also biased in favor of SQ since they managed the RGN tickets very well. I am cutting them some slack on a few minor inconveniences.
    You probably don’t see the correlation, but overall I have very positive associations with SQ.
    Now if this had happened on LX, we would be in court by now.
    So my point is that the greater context matters. You got it for 70K and that does matter.

  11. Timmer, it makes no difference what he got it for.

    If I redeem my miles and am in first, I expect to be treated like any first class passenger.

    If I go into Starbucks for my “free” drink, should they be able to give me a lousy cup of coffee? Why shouldn’t they? I didn’t “pay” for it.

    It’s the same gripe I have when redeeming 22,000 Hyatt points for a room and someone saying, “Well, you shouldn’t get upgraded as a diamond like a paying customer.” Why not? I EARNED those points.

    By your logic, Adam, if he had used 140K points, he would be entitled to more compensation. To go even further, that means a paying F customer should get more than someone who redeems miles. I strongly disagree. He saw an opportunity, used his miles and has as much right to the quality and service of his F seat as anybody on the plane. Period.

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