Monday, January 11, 2010

Singapore airlines, not that great way to fly

Had a lunch and dinner appointment with my gf who was in town for a visit. She was griping about the horrid airline food on United Airlines and we started to veered off to comparing airlines.

She told me her fav airline is still Singapore airlines. I beg to differ. For the last 2 years or so, I havent had excellent service from SQ staff for ages. I am refering to both ground staff and the flight attendants. I will state upfront that the service isnt bad, it isnt rude but it isnt impressive either. In fact, my recent flight to Maldives on board SQ left a rather bitter taste.

In all the flights I had taken, Singapore airlines is the FIRST renowned airline to inform me they do not have Chinese tea. More correctly, they ran out of Chinese tea after serving me one miserable half cup of tea.

After several months since Oct'09, I still didnt know which bug me more.
The unprofessional way service was rendered, or the glaring fact that the airline didnt even bother to stock enough CHINESE tea on a flight which was 90% ethnic Chinese, out of which 80% were CHINA Chinese. This is given that the airline KNEW perfectly well the demographics of the passengers onboard for that day. The story went like this....

The bad impression starts with the very slow check in and the very brusque way the staff informed us to board the plane. When lunch was served, I had asked for Chinese tea which is a pretty normal request onboard Cathay Pacific. The attendant looked alittle surprised at the request but politely told me to wait. It took them say 15mins after 2 reminders to get me my chinese tea.

As I had mentioned earlier, most of the passengers were Chinese nationals. Apparently they had some honeymoon package and these people were on couple tour to Maldives. After my meal, they begun their rounds to serve English tea. When it reached me, I asked for Chinese tea but was told in a manner that "I am too busy to deal with u" tone that she will get back to me.

After about 10mins wait, this senior male attendant came to me and said rather loudly in accented Singlish while waving that container of English tea :"Sorry ah, we ran out of Chinese tea. English tea lah, same lah, still tea."

It took me a few seconds for the Singlish to sink in, and another few seconds for the "running out of tea" fact to be digested. "You ran out of Chinese tea?" I repeated. Seeing my puzzled and disbelieving look (I believed him, I just didnt expect them not to have tea) , the senior male flight attendant mistook my expression and continued nonchalantly:

"Aiya you know hor, this flight got so many Chinese people, so we dont have so much tea to give to people. Everyone want Chinese tea, so no more. Finished! So you want? Can? English tea ok for you?" He smiled and talk to me like I was some dense 10year old kid.

I smiled and declined the English tea but he didnt seem to think what the deal was. English tea, Chinese tea, all the same. I had to decline his offer twice.

Just when the incident of "no more Chinese tea" was fast becoming history, I was awakened by 4 flight attendants going to almost each row with a trolley cart decked with boxes. Overhearing and seeing the passengers open the box filled with cake, I discovered it was a gesture of "personal touch" to these china honeymoon couples congratulating them on their honeymoon/ marriage.

I think that was what pissed me off.

Considering the SQ team had prior knowledge that this is a flight packed with ethnic Chinese judging from the volume of all these preprepared "cake gifts", why didnt the team have the same common sense to take into account of our beverage preference? If SQ truly pride herself as one of the top airlines, trying to convince money payers that they are the great way to fly with, I would expect SQ to pay more attention to passenger needs -considering the dietary habits of Chinese people and prepare more Chinese tea.

I am not asking for gourmet tea, I am just asking for normal tea. Hell, I am not even asking for things not commonly served on board. How ironical it is, not to focus more about your regular passengers with good service, instead trying to pull off your marketing gimmicks with the goodwill cakes? What was even more like a slap to SQ face was that, the china nationals (seated around me) were also complaining about not being served Chinese tea. Apparently, I am not the only one who was sorely disappointed by this major SQ service oversight.

If this had been united airline or emirates or any European airlines, I would perfectly understand the flight not stocking any or sufficient Chinese tea. However Singapore airlines, should know better. If Cathay Pacific can serve BOTH english and Chinese tea, why couldnt Singapore airline do the same? What is worse, is to have the male attendant trying to blame the shortfall on the high number of Chinese nationals on board. The way he was talking to me was ...utterly like some uncle selling tea in coffeeshop. Eeeewwk, what happen to the quality of SQ flight attendants?

The ironical thing is that, if SQ had not prepared those cakes with the matching couples' names, I prob wouldnt be this miffed. At least I could delude myself into believing that they genuinely did not have any idea on the demographics of the passengers to anticipate this increase demand for chinese tea.

It is not a life and death situation I know.
It's just tea I know.
However, it is precisely details like this that distinguishes between a good airline, from a GREAT airline. Disappointingly, SQ is definitely has proven in this case not to be the latter.

Oh how far has our mighty SQ fallen from grace since the early glory days....

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