Singapore Airlines / negotiating acceptable terms
On 26th January 2006, I reserved on the SIA website from our home in the UK 3 business class seats from Singapore to Auckland for travel on 15th December 2006, at a cost of over S$5,000 per ticket.
When we arrived at Changi Airport two and a half hours before take-off time, we were told that the flight was oversold and that we were to be compulsorily downgraded to economy class. A substantial compensation figure was mentioned by the check-in clerk (which Singapore Airlines subsequently said was a miscommunication), which we rejected; we also declined an offer to travel in first class 24 hours later as our schedule did not permit this. In the event, Singapore Airlines found a premium seat for my wife, but my son and I traveled in a 100% full economy cabin, which was noisy and uncomfortable and which resulted in us beginning our New Zealand trip with a completely sleepless night, not at all part of our plan. At the gate, we were requested (and declined) to sign a form accepting the downgrade in exchange for S$1000 cash in compensation (which is less than the difference in value of the ticket) and an upgrade voucher on that route subject to availability and valid for 12 months – not a sector which there is any prospect of me traveling again in that time (our return trip was from Christchurch, and SIA has no first class on that route). Although they knew that we did not wish to accept the downgrade, at no time did SIA make any effort to negotiate a package with other passengers and the only alternative compensation they have offered is 30,000 krisflyer miles – as I am UK-based, enough for a return economy flight within Europe subject to availability and time-limited, once again not a proposal which has any practical value to me at all. Your readers should be aware that over-selling is endemic on SIA (Mr Gerald Lim who handled our case told us that on his previous shift he had compulsorily downgraded or off-loaded 39 passengers) and that booking early or checking in early is no protection against this mistreatment. They should also be aware that SIA does not follow international best practice (compulsorily in Europe and the US) of negotiating acceptable terms with passengers and that after the event they have shown no interest at all in trying to find a reasonable settlement. Our case is still open.
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