SINGAPORE: Disgruntled Scoot passengers who were stuck in Athens for nearly three days after a 56-hour flight delay were relieved to be back in Singapore on Friday (Dec 21) but expressed anger over the airline's handling of the situation in Greece.
Scoot flight TR713 had been scheduled to depart Athens at 11.20am local time on Tuesday (5.20pm Singapore time). There were 321 passengers, including multiple Singaporean families, on board.
But the flight was delayed at least three times and eventually departed Athens on Thursday, 7pm local time, arriving in Singapore close to noon on Friday.
Passengers and their family members, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that there was a lack of communication between Scoot and the passengers affected.
"We couldn't even talk to Scoot directly, we were on the ground, our contact person was a Greek lady," said a passenger, who was in Athens on holiday with her husband and 13-month-old baby. "It was just the crew on the flight and once we're out (of the flight) that was it."
Passengers were told to board and disembark from flights on three separate occasions over two days, and said they were left in limbo over their situation.
“The Greek officials in Athens were very overwhelmed," said another passenger, who works in Greece but was flying back to Singapore to spend the Christmas holidays with her family. "They got the brunt of it because there was a lot of anger, shouting and begging to have food vouchers and to know what was going on."
Said her mother, who was at the airport to meet her daughter: "It's Christmas time, time when you're together as family and that time has been eroded."
"I have a flight back with Scoot, but that's it, never again," added her daughter.
TOLD TO DISEMBARK TWICE IN A DAY
In an earlier statement, Scoot had said that the passengers were first asked to disembark the Boeing 787 after it took longer than expected to resolve "operational considerations arising from equipment limitations".
Once the issue was resolved, passengers boarded the plane again only to be asked to disembark for the second time because the operating crew's flight time limits ran out.
"This then necessitated a grounding of the aircraft with a rescheduled departure timing of 11am local time on Dec 19. During this delay, hotel accommodation and meals were provided to customers," Scoot said.
But passengers said that the service provided to them left much to be desired.
"Some people became claustrophobic and we wanted to order food, but the captain stopped service," claimed the passenger, who along with her husband and baby, were stuck on board the first flight for approximately three and a half hours. "On the first day, we were just brought inside and out of the flight.
"The whole day they gave us this tiny bag of crisps and one tetra pack of apple drink. They sent us to the hotel at night, at 10pm, and we were served dinner at 10.20pm.”
During the transfer to the hotel, families and children were also not given any priority, said the passenger.
"We were left standing in the cold with rain, babies all getting wet. After the first bus left we fought with the airport staff and then they let families take the second bus," she said.
ANOTHER FLIGHT DELAY ON WEDNESDAY
When the passengers returned on Wednesday and the retimed flight was preparing for pushback, Scoot was informed that flight approval had been rescinded.
"Customers unfortunately had to disembark the aircraft. Scoot then decided to mount a ferry flight from Singapore to Athens to fetch affected TR713 customers back to Singapore," it said.
READ: Four days, 11 flights, 10,000km - A reporter’s journey to examine the growth of Asia's budget airlines
But this was too late for one passenger who decided to buy a one-way ticket back to Singapore on Lufthansa via Frankfurt.
"I was very frustrated and tired, I had to get back before Friday and they weren't sure of what was going to happen. In the first place they could have sent the flight from Singapore but they didn't… I didn’t want to risk it,” said Mr Sunimal Rathnayake.
The ticket home cost him S$1,300, more than the price of the S$800 return ticket to Athens, he added.
He also said that service while they were waiting on the plane was inconsistent, with some passengers getting food and water and others getting none.
Responding to Channel NewsAsia's queries, Scoot confirmed that under European regulations, affected customers will be entitled to €600 (S$940) in compensation.
The compensation documents were sent to customers via email and in physical copies upon disembarkation in Singapore, added Scoot.
"For affected customers who have missed their connecting flights out of Singapore, Scoot has arranged to set up manned service counters in Singapore to assist them on their arrival on Dec 21 with alternative flight arrangements," said the statement.