Singapore Airlines' low cost subsidiary Scoot has put up a heartfelt post on Facebook, to thank consumers for the support and apologise for the reduction in services due to COVID-19. The airline, known usually for its tongue-in-cheek creative executions, said it never imagined a world without travel, a world where planes are grounded, and borders are closed.
"It’s unthinkable, but it has happened. We understand that it has been challenging for everyone in these unprecedented times, and would like to thank you all for your patience and understanding," the post continued.
Given the further tightening of border controls around the world over the last week to stem the COVID-19 outbreak, Scoot has temporarily suspended majority of its network from now until mid to end April. The airline however, is working towards providing flights where possible to transport passengers back to their home countries amidst the suspensions, and will monitor the situation and will make further changes to its network where required.
"We sincerely apologise for any travel disruptions this may have caused you. All customers affected by the flight cancellations will be notified progressively and will receive a Scoot travel voucher on the unused portion of their itinerary in their registered email address within 30 business days," the airline said. In addition, Scoot also reiterated that it has been experiencing a much higher than usual volume of messages. This comes following the suspension of its call centre in Manila, as part of the safety measures enforced by the Philippines government since 17 March.
As such, Scoot has activated more Singapore office staff to respond to emails and/or social media requests, as well as a temporary English hotline to attend to enquiries. Just last week, Scoot said it has also added a self-service refund option to its website for automated processing of refund requests, and said it has completed processing 91% of requests submitted since the launch of this service six days ago.
"This world remains a wonderful place with its incredible, uncountable sights, myriad of fascinating cultures and unforgettable experiences. Despite the challenges this current climate presents, the spirit of travel, of connecting with amazing people and cultures all over the world, is still alive and well. Scoot was established to champion this spirit, and to make life more fulfilling. This remains our mission in 2020 and will continue to be so, long after COVID-19 is but a distant memory. Stay strong and healthy everyone, and we’ll be back Scootin’ again soon," the Scoot team concluded in the post.
The Facebook post was met with several netizens empathising with the airline and also called for others to "give time and space to sort it out". One netizen said that it is unfortunate that Scoot has to suspend its operations temporarily and the airline's lack of timely response is likely due to being stretched, adding that members of the public should be understanding. Others too encouraged the Scoot team to stay strong, hang in there, and that the sun will shine brightly again.
Like many of its competitors, the airline is not a stranger to customer service woes. For Valentine's Day, the airline launched a spot on Facebook to celebrate experiences, but was met with a slew of negative comments about its customer service by consumers and travellers looking for refunds and regarding cancellations due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Industry players who previously commented on Scoot’s customer service woes, have now lauded the airline for sharing what is in its control and what it can do about it. Lars Voedisch, managing director, PRecious Communications told Marketing that in a situation such as this, brands have to be transparent and honest as much as possible, and also be open about the solutions there are and areas that are still getting sorted out.
“Airlines such as Scoot do not only have to deal with the technical issues of grounded fleets and processing customer complaints, but also rebookings and refunds at levels they might not have been previously equipped for. They also have to take the brunt for the disappointments and emotional affects people are facing,” he added. During a time where consumers are more sensitive than ever, brands have to be empathetic.
“Acknowledge your customers' situation and frustrations. Don't raise false hope and most importantly, manage expectations. Talk about it repeatedly without getting emotionally involved. Maintain or even strengthen trust by being honest and open - and by over communicating, ideally mirroring the kind of language your customers use instead of hiding behind corporate phrases,” Voedisch explained.
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Freda Kwok, strategy director at Germs Digital chimed in to add that at this time, brands can rally to show empathy, support and camaraderie. More so than ever, emotions are high, the market is volatile, and everyone really lives day by day, not knowing what measures are going to come next, or what the updated numbers are going to be for the day, she explained.
“After all, the current situation not only affects consumers but the internal teams behind the brands as well, and it is encouraging to see brands like Scoot being transparent and upfront with their efforts,” Kwok said.
According to Kwok, businesses, especially those that are directly impacted such as aviation and hospitality, can take this opportunity to focus on brand building efforts, and to take stock of marketing strategies and plans. “So when the situation has settled and collectively we tide this over, we can all come back faster and stronger, riding on the goodwill created during these times. It is now that the human spirit needs to be more resilient than ever, and brands can only benefit by showing their human side as well,” she said.
However, the airline has also lent a helping hand to the community when it aided in bringing Chinese nationals back home to Wuhan, and flying Singaporeans back home to Singapore. Scoot also stated on its site that it had suspended all flights between Singapore and Mainland China, and that affected customers booked on these flights will receive a 100% refund of their unused itinerary value via original mode of payment, and no further action is required.
The airline currently works with Essence as its global media agency, while retaining BLKJ for creative duties.