A Singaporean man had his return flight from Tokyo, Japan changed unilaterally by Singapore Airlines (SIA), and his seats were downgraded from premium economy to economy six months after he made his bookings.
He was subsequently offered 5,000 Krisflyer miles per passenger as compensation for the bookings he made, after going through a tiresome back-and-forth with the customer service.
Believing that his situation is not unique, he wrote to Mothership about the incident.
Return flight timing changed and seats got downgraded
The passenger, named Leonard, told Mothership that he had booked his flights to and from Japan on Jan. 10, 2022.
It was for a year-end family trip in December 2022 involving Leonard, his wife, his elderly parents, both in their late 70s, two children, aged five and one, and a domestic helper.
Around six months later on Jul. 6, Leonard alleged that he received an email from SIA that said his return flight had been changed with no reason given.
The original return flight that he booked was at 4:40pm on Dec. 27, and it was changed to an earlier flight at 8:50am on the same day.
This was supposedly followed by another email from SIA on Jul. 7, which said his seats had been downgraded from premium economy to economy for both the Tokyo-bound and Singapore-bound flights.
Leonard added that this time, the reason given for the downgrade was due to "operational requirements".
Told to pay extra if he wanted to change flights
Leonard is not able to take the return flight at 8:50am as he will have to travel throughout the night within Japan with his elderly parents and young children in tow.
When Leonard subsequently called SIA's customer service in the evening of Jul. 7, he was purportedly told that he had to pay an additional cost, which he estimated to be around S$4,000 to S$5,000, if he wanted to change his flight to the only other available timing on the same day, at 10:55pm.
The SIA's customer service also told him that he would only receive a full refund if he cancelled his flights.
Eventually, after a certain amount of "back-and-forth", according to Leonard, SIA agreed to change his flight to the 10:55pm one without charging him an additional cost.
Leonard wrote in an email to Mothership:
"After much back-and-forth and being put on hold for long periods, I was then told that SQ will "waive the fees" for putting me on the flight that I want.
As a matter of principle, I do not agree with the phrase being used as I did not and am not asking for any changes or upgrades and this whole issue had emanated from their own internal decisions, but I conceded that at the end of the day, the customer service officer and his supervisors/ managers/ team can use whatever terminology they wish to sugar-coat the situation."
Offered 5,000 Krisflyer miles in compensation at first
His return flight was confirmed four days later through a phone call from SIA on Jul. 11.
SIA also supposedly told him during this phone call that he will not receive any compensation for the downgrade of his seats, and the additional costs he has incurred from making changes to his itinerary.
Leonard added that after further back-and-forth, SIA initially agreed to offer him a compensation of 5,000 Krisflyer miles.
To put things into perspective, a one-way flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur will incur at least 8,500 Krisflyer miles.
When Leonard replied that this was unacceptable, the offer was increased to 5,000 miles for each passenger.
"Again, I told her this offer is not acceptable. She (the woman calling him on behalf of SIA) said there is nothing she can do, and we left it at that," he said.
Feeling extremely disappointed, Leonard said in the email to Mothership: "When we make changes to our tickets, we are told that we must pay penalties for these changes, but when they want to make changes, we must pay them too! This is akin to daylight robbery."
SIA: Fare difference refund if change in customer's cabin class
In response to Mothership's queries, a spokesperson for SIA said it was unable to comment on specific customer queries unless it had their booking details.
The airline added:
"Singapore Airlines (SIA) would like to apologise to customers for the inconvenience caused by flight cancellations or a change in flight times.
SIA tries to avoid disruptions to its operations as much as possible, but these do take place occasionally for a variety of reasons. These could include a change in the aircraft due to operational reasons, technical issues, or adjustments to flight schedules.
Customers whose flights are cancelled or retimed will be notified of the changes if we have their contact details. We strongly advise all customers to update their contact details via our Manage Booking function to receive the latest updates on the status of their flights.
For flights that are cancelled, either by SIA or due to regulatory reasons, we will work with our customers to either rebook their flight or get a refund for the unused portion of their ticket.
Should there be a change in the customer’s cabin class, SIA will refund the fare difference.
Customers who booked their tickets through travel agencies should contact their agents directly for assistance.
Those who require documentation of the flight cancellation for insurance claims may request for a flight disruption statement online."
Top photo via Singapore Airlines/Facebook