Scoot, a Singaporean low-cost long-haul airline owned by Singapore Airlines, offered its apology and a refund after a complaint was raised about the disreputable treatment during a Singapore-Gold Coast flight towards an Australian woman on Tuesday (7 March).
Ms Amy Tobin, 22, has cerebral palsy. Therefore, she needs to be in her wheelchair to be able to travel.
According to Gold Coast Bulletin, Ms Amy and her best friend from New Zealand went on a cruise from Brisbane to Singapore.
They then travelled around the country for five days for her friend’s belated 21st celebration.
Ms Amy stated that she always takes her electric wheelchair every time she has to travel overseas, as well as a manual one for emergencies in case there are problems due to different power point voltages in other countries.
According to her, the trip was booked three months prior and she said that she had rang Scoot to reconfirm her booking, mentioning her wheelchairs the night before they left on the cruise.
Ms Amy, who lists her job as marketing director at ACO Marketing Solutions in Burleigh Heads, said, “My friend flew over from New Zealand for us to go overseas, so obviously, something has to be pre-organised.”
She told the media that it was not her first time flying with budget airlines, saying that she had been with AirAsia and Jetstar before, adding that there were never any problems when she travelled with those airlines.
“I’ve been to most of the USA, Asia, Singapore before with my family and Noumea and I’ve never ever, ever, ever had a problem with any other airline,” Ms Amy said.
If one browse through the Scoot Australia’s website, he/she can look under the special needs section that all guests with disabilities must be able to travel independently or have an accompanying passenger to assist them.
It also added that Scoot did not have the systems, staff or facilities to assume responsibility for such assistance or supervision.
The Scoot website directs passengers with mobility issues to contact its call centre at the time of booking or three days before their departure date.
The website also says that failure to notify the Airline in the specified timeframe may result in the service being unavailable at the airport and being denied carriage.
“For safety reasons, if you require assistance to and from the aircraft even though you are travelling with your own wheelchair, you will be required to check in your wheelchair as checked baggage upon departure,” it said,
“We will be able to provide assistance to and from the aircraft. Your wheelchair will be returned to you at the baggage claim belt upon arrival. Please note that there may be a charge for this service,” it added.
However, when Ms Amy and her friend arrived four hours early for their flight home Tuesday, a Scoot check-in agent first denied her boarding because of the electric wheelchair.
When she finally managed to check, she was asked to check-in both wheelchairs, as well as pay an excess baggage fee because she had two.
The check-in agent also told her that there was no airline wheelchair for her to borrow to the gate.
When they were told to wait at the check-in counter, Ms Amy discussed her possibility to get a refund and catch the next flight home instead.
However, the agent said she was she would not be refunded for her flight, even if she transferred to the next Scoot flight days later.
She was also discovered by that time that the next available flight was a $1400 on Emirates at 3.15pm Wednesday (Singapore time).
A few hours later, she was finally that told she could board her original flight on Scoot, with an assurance that both of her wheelchairs would make it on board.
In addition to all the difficulties that she needed to went through, the agent told her that she would have to walk or be carried in order to use the toilet on the eight-hour flight.
She responded, “It would be embarrassing, would anyone like that?”
“For starters, how were people going to even do that? The airplane hallway is narrow so there’s no way to do it. And, it’s not exactly the most dignifying thing with all these people on a flight,” she said.
“It shouldn’t matter if you can walk or not, you’re still human,” Ms Amy said, adding that the other airlines she has travelled on had a special aisle wheelchair for use by disabled passengers.
When the plane landed at the Gold Coast airport early Wednesday morning, she said that there was more problem as the Scoot staff handed her over to the airport ground crew. The staff discovered neither of her two wheelchairs was on the flight.
Finally, they provided her with a manual airport one while they hired a temporary electric one.
She was also told that her wheelchairs would be delivered via Singapore Airlines on Thursday (9 March).
On behalf of Scoot, a spokeswoman said the airline would like to apologise to Miss Tobin and would contact her to refund the cost of her flight.
She said, “We wish to apologise for the inconvenience and unhappiness caused to Miss Tobin.”
“We take feedback from our guests very seriously and are investigating internally to determine how we can improve our processes.”
Late Wednesday, the Scoot spokeswoman said the budget airline was working with the Gold Coast airport to expedite the return of the wheelchairs, saying, “We have made arrangements for the wheelchairs to be delivered to her by tomorrow.”
“We will also be refunding Miss Tobin the cost of her Singapore-Gold Coast flight,” she added.
Just this morning, Ms Tobin posted on her Facebook page, claiming that the returned wheelchair was damaged.