Singapore Airlines urges customers to only seek assistance for flights departing within 72 hours

Singapore Airlines planes are pictured on the tarmac at Changi Airport. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Singapore Airlines (SIA) is asking customers to contact it for assistance only for flights departing within the next 72 hours.

The national carrier has struggled to cope with a high number of inquiries about cancellations arising from the coronavirus outbreak, which has left some customers waiting for hours.

In a note sent to the media on Saturday (March 14), SIA said that it is experiencing an "extraordinarily high volume of customer enquiries at our customer services centres, reservation and sales offices, and social media channels", following travel restrictions that have affected its services.

"Customers are encouraged to only contact us if their flight is departing within the next 72 hours in order for our agents to focus on and assist those with urgent flight changes," said SIA.

"Customers with flight dates beyond the next 72 hours are advised to reach out closer to their trip."

The airline added that customers can also fill in an online form on its website, and an agent would get in touch with them as soon as possible.

On Saturday morning, SIA announced on Facebook that it would be suspending flights to European cities like Milan, Barcelona, Paris, Munich and Frankfurt.

This follows its move on Friday to reduce flight capacity on selected routes to the United States, following the country's travel ban on Europe, with the exception of the United Kingdom, on Wednesday.

SIA and its subsidiary SilkAir have axed thousands of flights to countries such as India, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand, due to concerns about the coronavirus.

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Airlines around the world are facing dwindling travel demand amid the travel restrictions. The coronavirus outbreak has led companies to scale back on business travel and discouraged tourism.

An SIA spokesman told ST on Friday that the flight cuts announced to date would result in a 15.6 per cent reduction in capacity for both SIA and SilkAir.

Long queues have formed at its service centre at ION Orchard, and ST understands that customers have waited hours to speak to customer service agents.

SIA said that additional resources have been deployed to support its staff dealing with the surge in inquiries.

"Updates on Covid-19 travel restrictions and waiver policies can be found on the Singapore Airlines website. Customers who booked their tickets through travel agencies are advised to contact their agents for assistance," it said.

"Singapore Airlines apologises for the inconvenience, and deeply appreciates the patience and support of our customers during this period."

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