Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Meal service on SIA flight poorly timed

Jun 10, 2013

DESPITE recent complaints about Singapore Airlines' (SIA) service standards slipping, my parents insisted on taking our national carrier to Osaka for their holiday on March 22. To their horror, they experienced an appalling in-flight meal service on board SQ616.

There was only one meal during the flight - which was six hours and 40 minutes long - and this was served at 3pm, an hour after the plane took off. No food was served for the rest of the flight.

[With a start like, "despite recent complaints...", I was led to believe that "to their horror" meant that service standards had NOT slipped! Disappointing!

In a movie, if you hear about "service standard slipping", it's called "foreshadowing" and at some point later in the movie you should experience the "slipped service standard" more or less firsthand (or vicariously thru the lead actor/actress)!]

The plane landed at Kansai International Airport at about 9pm, and by the time my parents cleared Customs, it was already 10.15pm. They then had to rush to catch the last train leaving the airport for Osaka and managed to have their dinner only around midnight, after much difficulty as most eateries were already closed.

My parents were terribly disappointed by SIA's poor scheduling of the meal service. Their experience led me to wonder: Did the cabin crew intentionally serve the main meal way ahead of dinner time, enabling them to get this time-consuming task out of the way?
If the cabin crew were merely following a planned schedule, it speaks poorly of SIA's in-flight service standard and suggests that the carrier has little regard for the welfare of its passengers.

Did it not occur to SIA that tourists entering a foreign country would not be able to clear customs as quickly as its flight crew and would thus have to go for hours without food?

Passengers should be treated humanely and not have to endure what my aged parents went through.

Jason Fok Wai Kwong

[Yes, Jason. It was all a conspiracy to torture your parents for the convenience of the SIA cabin crew who are after all just glorified flying waitresses and waiters.

For the next trip, you should try another airline. Note what time they serve the meal or meals. And report back. Preferably you should provide a table to compare the two meal services/airlines, and your conclusion that SIA meal service is outrageous in terms of timing should be supported by how other airlines serve their meal (or meals) and what time they did so.

Otherwise your complaint cannot be taken very seriously.

BUT, here's some speculation on my part. With some known parameters.

Every flight has some risk of encountering turbulence. If turbulence is very bad, meal service would be suspended. 

The hour immediately after take-off and just before landing are "no-go" for inflight service as the plane maneuvers into position. So basically, the in-flight service window is from 3 to 8 pm. It may about 30 mins to an hour to serve all the passengers (depending on the size/capacity of the plane) so the latest service can start is 7 pm. 

However, there are usually customs and immigration forms to be filled up and the crew will start handing out the forms about an hour or two before landing, so that might be another consideration.

Even if you intend to start meal service at 7, the plane may suddenly encounter turbulence severe enough for the captain to suspend in-flight service at about the same time, there may NOT be meals, at all.

So you want to start earlier. The earlier you start, the more margin for dealing with unexpected turbulence. And yes, turbulence can hit more than once.

I just love Singaporeans. They are so pampered because everything here works EXACTLY as it should, and Nature here is tamed and domesticated to our wills, they never realise that we still need to consider unpredictable nature elsewhere.

Update July 2013. The same unreasonable and unrealistic expectations of Singaporeans were again manifest during the Haze of 2013. The PSI reached 401 at the highest and Singaporeans were appalled that our govt has NO PLANS to go to Indonesia and STOP the burning. ]

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