Filipino tourist praises SIA for 'truly outstanding' handling of flight delay, says he was given 5-star hotel room

Mr Marvin Tomandao was affected by flight disruptions on Aug 17, 2018, when a Xiamen Air aircraft veered off a runway at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/MARVIN TOMANDAO
Mr Marvin Tomandao was affected by flight disruptions on Aug 17, 2018, when a Xiamen Air aircraft veered off a runway at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/MARVIN TOMANDAO
A copy of the notice that was distributed to passengers at the airport when the flight delay was announced. PHOTO: MARVIN TOMANDAO

SINGAPORE - A Filipino man's Facebook post praising the service of Singapore Airlines (SIA) during a recent flight delay has gone viral.

Mr Marvin Tomandao was among the thousands of passengers who were affected by the widespread flight disruptions last Friday (Aug 17) when a Xiamen Air plane veered off a runway at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila.

Unlike many others on that chaotic day, however, Mr Tomandao had something positive to say about his experience.

On Monday, he wrote about his experience with SIA ground staff in a Facebook post that gathered over 14,000 reactions and was shared more than 3,800 times.

The 34-year-old events organiser was travelling back to Manila from Singapore on flight SQ918 with his niece as part of her birthday celebrations. They flew economy.

According to Mr Tomandao, their flight was supposed to leave at 7.25pm. However, at 7pm, it was announced that the flight would be delayed.

When the delay was announced, SIA staff began serving the stranded passengers refreshments that included sandwiches, muffins and drinks.

They also distributed notices to passengers which apologised for the delay and contained suggestions for further actions the passengers could take while they waited. The notices also stated that SIA was "in the process of securing hotel rooms to accommodate (passengers) for the duration of the delay".

Mr Tomandao was later given a five-star room at luxury hotel Four Points by Sheraton, with a buffet dinner and limousine taxi service to and from the hotel.

Notices with updated information on them were also left at passengers' hotel doorsteps.

When another delay was announced at the airport the next morning, passengers were given $15 worth of food vouchers to spend on their breakfasts. Flight delay surveys were also distributed to allow passengers to give feedback on how well the delay was handled.

Finally, when the plane was ready to be boarded again, ground staff lined up in a row to apologise for the delay and wish passengers a pleasant flight.

The entire experience left Mr Tomandao very impressed.

He said: "I had been monitoring the situation at NAIA the whole day. The thousands of passengers stranded, sitting on the cold floor, getting into altercations with the ground staff of the local airlines, without food or money for food, because they have been there for hours.

"I just wanted to share how different and pleasant our flight delay experience was, and that it could be done differently.

"We were just in economy (class). I could just imagine what accommodations and services were handed to the business class passengers," he added.

Mr Tomandao told The Straits Times that he travels frequently on a number of airlines, but that SIA was his "most favourite airline".

He explained that flight delays are very common in the Philippines, where such incidents are often handled very differently.

"(The) stories are always very horrible... (passengers) were not informed properly about updates. The ground staff wouldn't communicate with them... They are kept guessing when the flight would resume."

While online response to Mr Tomandao's post was mostly positive, some netizens speculated that he had received such good treatment, as SIA and Changi Airport had a bigger budget than other carriers, and thus could afford to spend more money on their passengers.

Mr Tomandao has a different take.

"Take out all the 'excesses' provided by SQ... it's the compassion for inconvenienced passengers that was truly outstanding," he said, adding that SIA ground staff were present at the hotel lobby to assist with passengers' check-outs from the hotel.

"I mean, they already gave us hotel and cabs. Surely, we could already manage to go back to the airport. But no. They wanted to make sure we could check out fast and get to our cabs swiftly... They wanted to make sure we knew they were there for us during the whole ordeal."

Asked about Mr Tomandao's post, an SIA spokesman said: "SIA places emphasis on the quality of service at all touchpoints: pre-flight, on board and post-flight so as to assure a high standard of service and efficiency both on the ground and in the air.

"We are pleased that our ground team was able to anticipate and see to the needs of our customers on this occasion."

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