I have purchased a return ticket from Singapore Airlines via their website in Mar this year from Chengdu to Singapore for my mother-in-law. After flying to Singapore, I called their call centre to cancel the flight back to Chengdu because I did not know how long my mother-in-law wanted to stay. Over the voice-recorded phone system, I was told that my ticket is valid for one year and I would have to top up any fare difference in future. I was fine with that.
Recently when my mother in law decided to fly to Chengdu, I was told that my fare had expired, and I would have to top up an amount that is actually more then if I were to buy a single trip via the website. I asked the call centre staff for an explanation and explained to them that I was told that the ticket is valid for one year and I am okay to top up a reasonable fare difference but not pay more then the price for a single trip listed on the website.
The call centre then kept repeating that the price they quoted was the fare difference. So, previously I was told that my ticket is valid for one year, and now I am told that the fare is valid only for two months from March. That doesn't sound right at all. To me that basically means that my ticket is useless now.
When I asked if it meant that my ticket is useless and not worth anything, the call centre staff that told me that my ticket "is definitely worth something". Seeing that SIA is trying to play with words between a valid ticket and valid fare, I then asked about the refund while asking him to see if he can escalate the issue.
A few days later, I received a call from another staff member from the call centre, telling me that they have checked about my issue and they cannot do anything about it. All he did was continuously repeat that my fare expired. I asked about the refund and he told me that he did not know about it and made me repeat the whole story. He then said he would check and get back.
Days later, I received yet another call from another staff member and had to repeat the same story all over again. This time, I was told that the ticket was not refundable. I then told him, "Your colleague M**** told me that my ticket is definitely worth something. Is SIA going to back out of that now?" With that, I was made to wait again.
Finally, I received a call from the last person from the call centre. This time, I was told that my ticket can be refunded for about 25 Chinese Yuan. That is like S$5, a truly derisory amount.
All in all, I waited almost a month for this matter to conclude and I have spoken to at least four different staff members from their call centre. Each time, I had to repeat the story all over again. Everything is voice recorded and clear requests were made. They were just not customer oriented enough to go through my case even though I told them to go listen to the commitments their colleagues made. They even tried to lie to me that my ticket is non-refundable and only after they tried, it is actually worth S$5.
So yes, they win. I was told that I had to pay the fare difference, just that I was not told it is going to be the full fare. I was also told my ticket is valid for one year, just that it matters more that my fare is valid for two months. I was told that my ticket is worth something, a derisory S$5.
So to my fellow Singaporeans who regularly fly SQ, take note of the play with words. Make sure that you take down the names of the people who gave you information so that you can quote them and prevent them from going back on their words. And I hope you do not meet with any hiccups with the call centre because they will get different people to call you back and make you repeat the same story every time.
TOC has written to SIA on 17 July and has not received any response from the company about this issue. The letter has been edited prior to publishing.