SIA removes auto travel insurance option after CASE and consumer feedback

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has backtracked on its decisions to automatically include travel insurance as part of its ticket purchase process, a move which copped it flak from customers in January this year.

Confirming the move in a statement to Marketing, an SIA spokesperson said that SIA encourages customers to take up travel insurance to safeguard their travel plans. The spokesperson added:

We have taken customer feedback into account, however, and have amended the booking flow on our website to offer travel insurance as an ‘opt-in’, rather than ‘opt out’, feature.

The incident has also garnered the attention of the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), which too gave criticism over the automatic inclusion of travel insurance. In a statement to Marketing the organisation confirmed that it had conveyed its concerns to SIA two weeks ago.

"We had conveyed our concerns to Singapore Airlines on this two weeks ago, and we are glad that Singapore Airlines has taken our feedback and consumers’ feedback on this issue and reversed the feature," CASE executive director Loy York Jiun.

Loy explained that businesses should be transparent in their pricing. As such, imposing additional options and charges on consumers, such as travel insurance, without their express consent (through opting-in) is an unethical practice. He added that CASE is of the view that consumers must be allowed to consciously opt-in to select the specific services they wish to purchase.

However, we note that there are other airlines who are continuing this practice of automatic inclusion of travel insurance for consumers’ bookings.

"We would like to highlight that such a practice of 'pre-ticking' of additional options is already prohibited in Europe, and we hope the authorities will consider implementing the same in Singapore. In the meantime, we strongly urge all airlines to avoid 'pre-ticking' of options for better transparency," Loy said.

This makes it the second time SIA u-turned on customer-related decisions, an earlier incident being the imposition of credit card service fees for selected classes of fare types – namely its Economy Lite fare type. The airline faced criticism as credit was regarded a common payment method for consumers.

Addressing the credit-card service fee debacle in a report by TODAY, SIA chief executive officer Goh Choon Phong said that the airline had to “accept that some things may not work … and we have to show that if it doesn't work, that we learn quickly, and move on."

Despite the turbulence faced in the public space, the negative headlines did not stop SIA from making digital a focal point for 2018. In a New Year message to staff members, chief executive Goh said the airline will push forward with “digital transformation” that will not only be “significantly enhanced”, but foster a digital mindset and digital-first culture amongst its employees.