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SIA in-flight service protocol revision after recent severe turbulence faces passengers' reactions

Updated on: 30 May,2024 10:49 AM IST  |  Singapore
mid-day online correspondent |

SIA put more comprehensive safety measures in place shortly after Flight SQ321 from London to Singapore experienced severe turbulence on May 21, leaving a passenger dead and dozens injured

SIA in-flight service protocol revision after recent severe turbulence faces passengers' reactions

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SIA in-flight service protocol revision after recent severe turbulence faces passengers' reactions

According to a media source on Thursday, several frequent travellers have criticised Singapore Airlines (SIA) for making a hurried decision that is already having an impact on its service offerings and elevating the stress levels of cabin crew. This is in response to the recent extreme turbulence on the airline's aircraft. The general mandate, according to The Straits Times, that lunch service be suspended and that all cabin staff members buckle up when the seat-belt indicator is turned on, has had an impact on both passengers and workers.

Shortly after severe turbulence on Flight SQ321 from London to Singapore on May 21, which resulted in one passenger's death and numerous injuries, SIA implemented more extensive safety protocols. Meal service must now be stopped when the seatbelt sign is activated. Previously, only hot beverages and soup were prohibited from being given, and service may continue at the crew's discretion.

Flights inbound (towards Singapore) from Europe pass over a patch of the Andaman Sea known for turbulence, according to The Straits Times, which cited reactions from crew members and passengers. The Andaman Sea, a part of the Indian Ocean, is located west of Thailand. One flight attendant said there was more than an hour of turbulence during her recent three-and-a-half-hour flight flying a Singapore-India route. The cabin crew had to carry out meal service with the little remaining time.

'Some passengers don't understand why the service policy change is important, and rate service as average to poor via the customer feedback channel after flights where service was affected by turbulence,' the broadsheet quoted her as saying. 'We're stressed and fatigued, but at the moment there's nothing we can do except continue to navigate our work under the given circumstances.' A flight steward said crew members have had to make adjustments 'by doing things like removing after-take-off drinks to manage the time we have for meal service'.

He noted: 'Passenger reactions vary -- some are very understanding, while others feel short-changed.' During pre-flight briefings he has attended since the incident, in-flight managers have been actively checking upon crew members' well-being, the flight steward said, adding that a counselling team had been formed to support cabin crew.

Another crew member said: While it might be more stressful as meal service may be affected, I think the crew will try to provide the same service standards safely.' 'We can't fight Mother Nature,' said an SIA crew member who has been flying for more than a decade, adding that safety remains the crew's top priority.

John Tan, lead professional officer teaching in the air transport management degree programme at the Singapore Institute of Technology, said the policy change 'highlights the importance of adaptability in aviation safety'.

'Prompt responses are necessary to protect passengers and crew effectively. Enacting policy changes in response to incidents fosters a culture of continuous safety improvement," the Singapore Daily quoted Tan as saying. But the task of balancing safety and service quality may present a challenge for SIA, added Tan.

'The objective is to reduce the time cabin crew have to spend on the aisles. For SIA, this could translate into retraining cabin crew to increase their efficiency or changing the way services are delivered without compromising service quality. And the option to restructure the cabin layout remains a possibility,' he said.

Still, Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation consultancy Endau Analytics, believes that SIA's service quality will not be affected by the new protocol. 'The decision was arrived at after careful consideration and the urgent need to, first and foremost, prevent nasty injuries for passengers and crew in the future,' he was quoted as saying.

The Singapore Daily also had some netizens suggesting that passengers should take along their food and drinks on board in case meal service was canned due to turbulence, especially on short- and medium-haul flights.

(With Inputs from PTI)

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