From ‘Passenger disagrees with airline’, 14 June 2011, ST Forum online
(Law Cher Khiam): I REFER to Singapore Airlines’ reply (“Why passenger was not allowed to change seat”; May 31) to my letter (“Service goes out the window amid SIA balancing act”; May 27).
It was a 6am flight, and there must have been about 30 empty seats from economy class row 30 to 54 on that flight (54D was the seat given to me).
I checked with my aviation and pilot friends and contrary to SIA’s reply, I am told that I could have easily been given one of these seats up front (to alleviate my severe air sickness) without compromising the safety of the flight. I didn’t specify any seat and any attempt to move me forward – even if it was a row or two – would have been appreciated.
No attempt was made to help me despite my plea.
The arrogant manner in which I was brushed off at the airport by two of the senior staff there hurt as much SIA’s reply. This is definitely not the sort of service one would expect from the world’s most awarded airline.
The initial complaint was about SIA’s refusal to allow Mr Law to change seats citing ‘plane balance’ and safety as a reason. No information on how far exactly the complainant would want to be moved from his position at the time, but would moving ‘a row or two’, as he now claims, make any difference for ‘SEVERE’ air sickness? In his first letter ‘Service goes out the window..’ (May 27), he in fact states:
…She refused to give me a seat further up front even though I explained to her that I experience giddy spells sitting behind (for example, when the plane hits turbulence).
I then sought the help of the supervisor, but was told the same reason: They couldn’t give me a seat further up front because they needed to “balance the plane”.
So, if you’re on the verge of puking your lungs out, what does one intend exactly by ‘further up front’? Moving ‘a row or two’? I don’t think so.Would flight attendants even suggest that he move one row up at the risk of sounding silly and getting scolded for it? Naturally, in that situation, one would assume a fair distance away from Mr Law’s seat, and you can imagine the affected staff reading this and going ‘Aiyah..NOW then you tell me..’. This is like saying ‘Oh I would have appreciated if NTUC exchanged my maggot ridden apple with something slightly rotten’. It’s common behavior of complainants to adjust their expectations in hindsight to make them appear less unreasonable as they very well could be in the beginning. I could scream at a cyclist for ramming into me for being ‘a bloody blind bastard’ in the heat of the moment, but later downplay the situation politely i.e inaccurately in a complaint letter with a euphemistic ‘I told him sternly to watch where he’s going’.
But back to SIA’s ‘arrogant response’ by Divisional Vice President Xavier Lim(May 31, ST Forum):
…Mr Law’s flight was nose-heavy. To ensure safe operations, we had to ensure that some passengers were seated towards the rear to achieve the correct balance for take-off. After take-off, passengers would be able to change to the forward seats if they are available.
Mr Law expressed his unhappiness to our staff over his seat arrangement. We are sorry that we could not accede to his request but cannot, under any circumstances, compromise the safety of our flight operations and that of other passengers.
Aeronautic physics aside, did either the complainant or the attendants think of asking someone in front to exchange seats?A little basic human beneficiary could have saved all the embarrassment really. Still, if Mr Law was well aware of his condition, why weren’t precautions taken? If he runs the risk of overflowing his airbag, how about bringing along some motion sickness tablets which you can buy off a pharmacy, or from a doctor for more potent ones? Motion sickness is mostly preventable, and by means other than bossing flight attendants around. It’s unlike peanut allergy sufferers having to risk anaphylactic shock with peanut dust floating around the plane. Still, this is a masterful ‘I’ve got the Last Word’ letter, with a cunning post-hoc ‘I’m really not asking for much’ disclaimer and a shaming whopper of a finish that would leave any organisation speechless. Please save as a template if you are ever find yourself inconvenienced by SIA, be it lack of legspace, crappy food or failure to understand what stewardesses are saying. You may even get a free business class upgrade if you’re lucky.