Complaints flying in against airlines

Complaints flying in against airlines

Complaints against airlines, especially budget carriers, are growing again.

Between January and November, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) acted on 92 complaints against carriers at Changi Airport, including Scoot, Tigerair, AirAsia, Jetstar and Singapore Airlines.

This figure is higher than the 80 cases dealt with for the whole of last year and 79 in 2012, the consumer watchdog's executive director, Mr Seah Seng Choon, told The Straits Times.

The increase comes even as airlines cut back on flights in view of the current challenges facing the aviation industry.

Key consumer grouses include difficulties faced in obtaining refunds - for example, when flights are cancelled or when passengers make an error during booking - and unsatisfactory services in general.

Among the carriers, Singapore Airlines' (SIA) long-haul budget arm, Scoot, received the highest number of complaints, with 37 cases filed so far this year, followed by AirAsia with 16 complaints, Tigerair with 13 and Jetstar with eight.

There were four complaints against SIA.

All the cases filed against Scoot have been looked into and closed, a spokesman for the carrier said, without elaborating on the details.

"The number of cases filed in 2014 is relatively small - about 0.002 per cent - compared with the total number of passengers that Scoot carried in the same period," he said.

With a small fleet of six planes, it can sometimes be a challenge to maintain normal operations when aircraft are removed from service for whatever reason, he added.

With the airline's first new Boeing 787 coming soon and another 19 to be delivered after that, "there will be more redundancy" in operations, which should improve the situation, said the spokesman.

Given that many people are travelling during these school holidays, Mr Seah reminded travellers to look at the fine print and to consider purchasing travel insurance.

"Consumers should take up a comprehensive travel insurance policy that covers all the activities that they plan to undertake, as well as pre-existing conditions such as medical illness," he said.

It is also important to read and understand the terms and conditions of the sales agreement - usually presented in fine print - before committing to the transaction.

Mr Seah added: "Take note of the refund and cancellation policies in the event that the flight is cancelled or rescheduled.

"Make sure that any verbal promises from your travel agent or airlines are put down in writing."

Undergraduate Victor Loh, 22, a regular traveller, said: "When fares are so cheap, we get excited and often end up not paying attention to the terms and conditions.

"Many times, it's not a problem and most flights operate as planned but it just takes one incident to really spoil a holiday."

In the unfortunate event that this happens and travellers are not able to resolve disputes on their own, Mr Seah said that travellers may approach Case for assistance.

This article was first published on Dec 13, 2014.
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