Monday, January 11, 2010

Singapore airport Check in counter observation

I wish I could find out, who determines the service quality of the ground check in staff. Would it be airport policy, or airline policy? I suspect it is the latter. Then the next question I wonder aloud, if airline dictates the check in staff service, would it be a standard directives?

I am a regular Cathay Pacific passenger. If I could, CX would be my preferred choice of airline nowadays after several disappointing brushes with SQ.

In Hong Kong check in station, may it be at the train station or at HK airport, one thing is constant. That being, CX check-in counters allocated to serve business or first class passengers will ALWAYS help to check-in economy passengers too if there isnt anyone waiting in the business or first class line. This practice was evidently followed in Sydney upon my recent trip back to Australia. The idea is simple, cut the waiting time for passengers trying to check in. Try to clear the line as much and as soon as possible.

As a passenger, I think this is an excellent praise worthy practice.

Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, this practice was obviously not carried out or ignored in the Singapore check in counters.

Several times I have noticed. Singapore CX staff located at the business class counters would conveniently IGNORE people lining up at the economy Q. I am highlighting that they have NO passengers waiting in line at the business class line.

In my recent trip back to Singapore last dec, I was faced with this scenario.
2 economy counters, 1 business, 1 first class counters were in service.

One economy counter was busy serving a family of passenger.
The other economy counter staff was discussing some document with another staff, thus rendering the counter inactive. The business and first class counter did not have any waiting passengers, and the staff were free. They were seated there, staring out with an empty non smiling look.

I thought perhaps they werent aware of people waiting for the economy Q. I was in 2 mind if I should walk up to the business counter to be checked in since the staff was so free. Just then, the non Chinese staff at the business counter looked up and our eyes met. I was half expecting her to acknowledge my existence and assist with my check in. Instead to my utter surprise, she ignored me and turned to her colleague seated next to her (first class counter) and started chatting happily. They would burst into short laughs, and continue to chat animatedly, ignoring the fact they are suppose to be servicing passengers.

The economy counter was being held up for unknown reasons to me. The other girl at the economy looked up at me, looked at the business + first class colleagues chatting away, and then decided she rather pretend to be reading some document. So I stood there waiting for good 10mins till the held up was cleared and the staff started to assist me.

I thought perhaps I was "mistaken", that the 2 female non-Chinese staff had not seen me waiting in the line of economy waiting to be served. So while I was waiting for my boarding ticket, I turned to look. There were 7 people in the economy line waiting, only one economy counter was active in duty. The other two remained happily chatting away. They saw the passengers in the economy line but had decided it wasnt their obligation to help out. They only stop their rubbish behaviour when a business class passenger arrived to check in. After that, they continued their chit chat again.

This is not the first time I had experienced this "couldnt be bothered" or "not my business" poor attitude at Singapore check in counters. Hence I wonder if this attitude stem from airport policy of "serving only your allocated clientele" or is it the infamous Singaporean lack of customer service mindset? The sort of "I am stupid to do extra work" mentality.

I would truly find it hard to believe Cathay Pacific would designate differing set of service manual and practices for different countries. Especially since both HK and Australia shares the same practice of "clearing" customers quickly. I would also not think airport policy would micromanage service level of the various airline counters.

Hence I can only deduce it is the typical Singapore selfish service culture that had allowed the two chit chatting counter girls to get away with their unprofessional behaviour.


Anonymous said...

Sorry experience indeed. I think you would be shocked to learn that most of the staff at check-in counters are actually not Singaporeans these days. They're either Chinese or Filipino.

Nomad said... wont be surprising...makes one wonders what do the govt expect locals to work as if most of the service industry jobs are hiring non locals.

That said, I dont mind non local staff if they can give a shake up in service level and a more customer oriented mentality...HOWEVER if I am to put up with the same rubbish lazy attitude, then I much prefer to be recipient of shitty attitude from my fellow citizens then from some foreigners who doesnt deserve the job.