A lot of people love Singapore Airlines, myself included.
It’s a prestigious brand with solid hard-products (their business class seats are comparable to some first class seats on other airlines), the awesome Book The Chef service, and not to mention the pretty air stewardess with their friendly service (although many other airlines have caught up with that as well).
However, since the beginning of the new year, Singapore Airlines has been in bad press with regards to their new sales tactics – auto-inclusion of travel insurance, and implementation of credit card charges. Both of these ended up with people flaming our national airline in the press, and SQ finally retracted these new policies “following a further review”.
The new fare structure
With their revamp of the new fare structure, I find their new website more difficult to navigate than the previous version, especially when it comes to finding fares one day before or one day after – too many steps are required now! Not only that, I had first hand experience of a new sneaky sales tactic – something that has not been highlighted in the press as yet.
When one searches for a flight, now there are 3 difference options for Economy & Business – Lite, Standard & Flexi. For premium economy, there are 2 options – Standard and Flexi. The table above offers a very easy comparison of the 3 different options available, where one does not have the option of seat selection and upgrade with the Lite option as compared to the Standard and Flexi option. The difference in terms of fares are also clearly highlighted for the 3 different types. And of course, during the course of booking, one can choose to book an outbound Lite fare and return on a Flexi fare for instance – this is termed “Mixed fare”.
Since I was planning to fly Premium Economy, and the fare difference was quite substantial for a return Flexi package, I opted for an outbound Premium Economy Standard and a return Premium Economy Flexi fare, since it was substantially cheaper.
As you have guessed, the reason why anyone would bother paying a higher price for the Flexi fare would be to obtain an upgrade using their airmiles. However, there was an error message when I tried to make the upgrade online. Thinking it was because of this mixed fare issue (since the Standard fare was not eligible for an upgrade), I called the customer service helpdesk to see if the upgrade could be processed manually.
That was when they told me there was a small fine print at the bottom which stated that “When you mix fare types, whether within the same cabin class or across cabin classes, fare conditions for cancellation, booking change and no show will follow the more restrictive fare type.”
I actually saw that line before I proceeded with my booking, but I thought nothing about it, since there was no mention about the conditions for upgrade having to follow the more restrictive fare type. It was obviously no fault of the poor customer service officer, but he had to deal with a terribly upset customer who felt so cheated. Eventually, he sought the advice of someone higher up, and finally agreed to grant me the opportunity for an upgrade out of goodwill (using my points of course), which was much appreciated.
Singapore Airlines has been very transparent with their fare structure no doubt, but their summary table is obviously misleading. The above is another example of a mixed fare type – this time with a Standard (“restricted”) Premium Economy fare with a Flexi Economy fare. This combination would suit someone who may want to use their miles to upgrade the return flight from CDG-SIN to Premium Economy since it is a flexi economy fare. However, similar to the first example given above, this would not be allowed following the fine print.
There needs to be better clarity possibly with an asterisk next to the “Upgrade with miles” for people to notice the difference and decide if this mixed fare is suitable for them. Otherwise, do not offer this option at all if there’s no intention of honouring it.