SINGAPORE: Singapore Airlines (SIA) has issued an apology to a New Zealand couple, Gill and Warren Press, who sought a refund following an uncomfortable flight experience involving a fellow passenger’s pet dog.
The incident took place during their 13-hour flight from Paris to Singapore in June 2023, where they had booked premium economy seats.
During the flight, the couple was surprised to discover a dog seated next to them.
They described hearing “heavy snorting” initially, which they believed was coming from a mobile device, only to realize it was the dog’s breathing.
“I heard this noise – a heavy snorting,” Mrs. Press told New Zealand news outlet Stuff.
“I thought it was my husband’s phone, but we looked down and realised it was the dog breathing. I said, ‘I’m not having this sitting next to us the whole trip.’”
According to her, the dog’s owner informed another passenger that he had the dog in the cabin due to his own anxiety.
However, she asserted that it was the dog that seemed to be distressed.
Requested a change of seats
Uncomfortable with the situation, they initially expressed their discomfort to a flight attendant, who could only offer them seats in the back row of economy class.
After enduring the situation for some time, the couple later decided to change seats.
In addition to the snorting, the dog was also passing gas, according to their account. Mrs Press mentioned that the dog was taking up Mr Press’ leg space, with its head under his feet and saliva dripping onto his leg.
“(The owner) couldn’t have the dog out in the aisle because they couldn’t get the trolleys through, so it had to come in farther, which meant his head was under my husband’s feet.
“My husband was in shorts, and was getting the dog’s saliva goo on his leg,” she told Stuff.
Upon speaking with a flight attendant again, they were relocated to seats at the front of the economy cabin, originally reserved for staff.
They were assured that an incident report would be filed, and they would receive further communication from the airline.
Delayed updates from the airline
However, after a week with no updates, the wife reached out to SIA’s customer service to voice her complaints.
The airline responded with an apology two weeks later, along with a S$100 gift voucher each for the airline’s KrisShop website.
Dissatisfied with the compensation, she declined the offer.
The airline later offered a S$200 travel voucher more than three weeks later, which also fell short of the couple’s expectations.
As a result, they requested a full refund for their premium economy tickets, emphasizing that their concern was not about disliking dogs but rather the lack of prior information about the situation and their disappointment with the airline’s customer service.
“We didn’t receive the experience we paid for,” she told Stuff.
A Singapore Airlines spokesperson reiterated their apology to the couple, acknowledging the inconvenience and distress they experienced during their flight.
“Singapore Airlines endeavours to notify customers who may be seated next to an assistance dog prior to boarding.
“In circumstances where customers seated next to an assistance dog request to be moved, Singapore Airlines will assist to re-seat customers within the same cabin where space permits.
“In this instance, we were unable to move Mr. and Mrs. Press within the same cabin as the premium economy class cabin was full,” they explained.
The spokesperson stated that the airline would continue to communicate directly with the customers in response to their feedback.
Additionally, SIA pledged to improve its procedures to ensure that passengers are informed in advance if they are seated next to an assistance dog.
It’s worth noting that as of April 1, 2023, Singapore Airlines no longer permits “emotional support dogs” on its flights, but it continues to accommodate approved assistance dogs, such as guide dogs, for passengers with disabilities, who had made prior arrangements and submitted the required documentation.