SCOOT Scourge – Once Bitten, How Many Times Shy OR Will I Never learn the Lesson of Budget Airlines?
Howdy all. Yeah, a bit of a rant today. My travel plans temporarily thrown up in the air with the news that SCOOT cancelled their flights from Singapore to Jaipur. My flight was booked for the 12th of March, which by a less than happy coincidence is the date from which going forward they will no longer be flying to Jaipur. So ummm SCOOT… not my favourite airline at the moment.
Customer Service is not an aspect of business embraced by the budget airline. I was more upset/angry over the way I was treated and the quality of their customer call centre than by the fact that my flight had just been cancelled. It was beyond abysmal. I’d heard good things about SCOOT and was prepared to give them ago. Now I am leaving on a different date and have to fly to Jaipur with Air Asia.
After several back experiences with budget airlines, you’d think I’d have learnt by now to just pay the extra and go with a carrier that values their customers and isn’t run on a paper-thin profit margin. And yet here I am writing this blog.
So I got a text message telling me to check my email about important information in regards to my flight to Jaipur. I got an email telling me SCOOT were ceasing all services to and from Jaipur from the 12th of March onwards. They left me with three options – Rebook the flight for a different date free of charge, reroute the flight only have to pay the fare different, or cancel the booking and get a refund.
So I called the number. The recorded opening message that says ‘Thankyou for flying with us’ without mentioning the name ‘SCOOT’ was stilted and a little odd. The waiting time was only a few minutes which is the best thing I can say about the call. The calls. The line was cut off before I spoke to a real person.
So I dialled again, and I did get through. Very briefly. The line was bad. I could hear the sounds of a busy call centre in the background. The volume was loud, the pitch tinny. And the person I spoke to couldn’t understand me much – repeating what I had said but not actually what I had said. I read out the booking number ‘L for Lima, C for Charlie… etc’. She responded ‘so that was L for Lima, I for Indigo’… I’m not sure how she heard that. Wasn’t that the point of giving each letter a word? So this sort of mistake didn’t happen. Anyway. CUT OFF again.
So I called again and spoke to a different person. Although the people who answered calls spoke loudly enough, there were constant dropouts and the accents were hard to comprehend at times. Mind you, I’m sure so was mine. But this was the number for Australian customers.
After 25 minutes with the lady, she went through every possible check to make sure I was who I said I was, I asked to be put on a different flight on the same day to the same location. I must have been dreaming to think they would put me on another carrier. Instead she read me the three options I had been given in the email. And then the phone cut out again.
She rang back – the only call back I got, but then she couldn’t hear me or vice-versa and I had to go so that was that. I called back later and spoke to a guy. He spent 15 minutes gathering my information and verifying my identity, and then the line cut out again.
A while later, after it seemed clear no return call was coming, I called again. I went through the whole verifying my identity rigmarole again. I was advised of my options. Rebooking the flight on a different (earlier) date. But there were no available seats and anyways I already had my Indian visa specifying date and port of arrival.
Despite the email saying this was an option, I was told they couldn’t reroute my flight somewhere else leaving me with the refund option. Except there was a snag on that one too. They would only refund it back to the card it came from. This was an issue as the credit card I paid with I have closed down. They ceased the American Express Card and that crippled my ability to earn points on the card so I closed it an got a new card.
They told me it HAD to be the same card. That I could talk to the bank and work out how I would get my money back from them. Oh and it would take 6 – 8 weeks. Because you know, it’s their policy. I suggested I could give them the account details for another account, that was a ‘no’. So basically it was a case of ‘we’ve got your 400 bucks and there’s nothing you can do about it’.
I asked to speak to a manager/supervisor. I was put on hold for 20 minutes but then told the supervisor was busy on another call. I had been online looking at options in that time. I suggested a re-route to Kuala Lumpur and then I could take Air Asia from there. He was adamant he was not allowed to reroute me. I read the email out to him on the phone which said to call this number to do one of the three options, the second of which was to reroute. He put me on hold again. Actually after each piece of information was gathered, I was put on hold it seemed.
He returned saying he could do it suddenly. I had three options on screen at the time for the 11th of March. He said there was no availability on the 11th. I reiterated that I was looking at three flights all with availability. He asked me then where I was flying from. Melbourne I said. To where. Kuala Lumpur said (and had already said so three times). Ahhh yes he could see them now.
He then read them out to me slowly. After the first option I said ‘yes, that’s the flight I want’ but he still read the other two out. He said he would generously waive the rerouting fee and that I would only have to pay the fare different. The flight to KL was cheaper than my flight.
Then he told me I needed to pay an extra $250 but couldn’t explain what for. I said I could see the flight was cheaper than the flight to Jaipur. He put me on hold. He returned and said ‘just this once’ I wouldn’t have to pay anything extra. He was clear that they were being generous here. My flight to Jaipur was $399 all up with bag, seat and meal. To KL it was around $350 with all those extras. So I am still flummoxed as why I would need to pay something else.
It had taken hours and hours since the first attempted call. I was hardly satisfied, but I guess I learnt my lesson. Well, maybe. I would have taken a different airline but I would have lost my money I’d already paid. The flight KL to Jaipur with Air Asia was around $120 with a whole bunch of extras. I’m staying a night at the KL airport, but I’ll arrive roughly the same time I was going to on the same date so I don’t need to alter my visa for India.
Oh and as a coda, they finish with a computer survey. It asked me how satisfied I was with the call. Five for ‘very satisfied’ and 1 for ‘not at all satisfied’. It explained and left me to answer. I said ‘one’. It repeated the instructions. I said one (quite loudly) again. I was told ‘as you have not entered an answer this survey is terminated’ and then it hung up on me.
What a defining way to end the experience. I have my rebooked ticket and I never lost it. Much. Airlines are pretty awful to deal with. And Budget Airlines – even worse. There clearly are not enough regulations to protect passenger impact in the way that it is so easy to cancel a flight if it becomes unprofitable to keep it running. Even though people have booked it. The lack of reasonable options too is also worrying.
SCOOT and other budget airlines bank on the fares being cheap enough that passengers will take the risk of something like this happening. Maybe it’s time customers got wise. Because this simply isn’t good enough.
Thanks for reading – May the Journey Never End.