The coronavirus pandemic has caused major problems for airlines worldwide as travel has come to a halt.
Most carriers have had to ground most or all of their fleets. Singapore Airlines (SIA) is no exception. The carrier has cut 96 per cent of its scheduled capacity until the end of April due to border control measures around the world.
These decisions have resulted in millions of passengers wanting refunds for their cancelled flight.
What should I do?
SIA is asking customers with tickets purchased directly from the airline to submit all requests for Covid-19 related assistance using this form.
If you wish to contact the airline immediately, bear in mind that almost all airlines are overwhelmed by the current situation, and will be working through hundreds of flights with tens of thousands of passengers.
SIA is asking passengers to only contact their service centre in Singapore or local Singapore Airlines reservation and ticketing offices if they intend to travel in the next 72 hours.
Singapore Airlines has cancelled my flight. Am I entitled to a refund or compensation?
If your flight was cancelled by the airline and you’re flying to or from destinations in the European Union, you have the right to a full refund, re-routing, and a right to compensation under European Union law Regulation 261 (EU261) which applies to all carriers.
Peter McCullough, a Hong Kong-based lawyer at Oldham, Li & Nie with expertise in litigating against airlines, points out that EU261 only applies if the cancellation was not caused by “extraordinary circumstances”.
“These are extraordinary circumstances, in other words, there are things going on around the world right now that are making air travel impossible, like government imposed flight restrictions,” said McCullough.
“The legal position on this is that you’re restricted to the terms and conditions on your ticket, but because these are extraordinary circumstances, would I go forward with suing an airline because they refused me a refund? That really depends on the judge and the country I’m suing the airline in,” added McCullough.
The Montreal Convention, which 140 countries have signed up for, allows passengers to claim compensation for damages resulting from an international flight disruption. You can find out more about this here.
Those who have purchased their tickets through a credit card will have more protection. Credit card providers may be able to help customers get their money back when the flight has been cancelled by the airline.
McCullough advises passengers to look at the airline’s website and see what their current policy is as airlines are changing their policies day by day.
How can I get a refund?
Singapore Airlines said on its website that if you’ve purchased refundable ticket, you can request a refund on its website.
If you cancel a non-refundable ticket, only the taxes will be refunded, added the airline.
Firstly, go to the Singapore Airlines website and enter your Booking Reference in the “Manage Booking” section.
Then click on the “Cancel Booking” link, which will guide you through a series of steps.
Postponing and rebooking a cancelled flight
Singapore Airlines is offering complimentary rebooking for all SIA and SilkAir tickets issued from 5 March to 30 April 2020. This means you don’t have to pay a rebooking fee but “top-up fees may still apply for fare differences in the new itinerary”.
For tickets that are not covered under its travel waiver policy, passengers can make changes to their itinerary directly via the Manage Booking section on its website, or submit their questions via its online form.
Customers who booked their tickets through travel agencies are advised to contact their agents.
For tickets that are covered by the airline’s travel waiver policy, passengers can convert their booking to an open ticket or submit a rebooking request via the online form.
An open ticket allows you to retain the remaining value of your original booking, and use it to rebook your travel at a later date
The travel waiver is applicable to customers holding tickets issued on or before 15 March 2020 with travel dates up to 31 May 2020.
Customers who booked tickets through travel agencies are advised to contact their agents for assistance.
“We will continue to review our waiver policy and retain the flexibility to extend the cut-off date of 31 May 2020 as we assess the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on global air travel,” the airline said.