Stuck Onboard For 3 Hrs With Zero Ventilation: The Horrors Singapore Airlines Passengers Went Through

Shraddha Goled India

June 14th, 2018 / 12:14 PM

Image Credits: Chandni Doulatramani/FB

Whenever we are traveling, the only thing on our mind is to have a pleasant and safe journey. However, passengers aboard Singapore Airlines Flight SQ 516 on June 8 had an extremely unpleasant and a traumatic experience. This flight to Kolkata landed at its destination hours past its scheduled time and the reason for which was non-functional air conditioning systems. With almost 400 passengers on board and no ventilation, the passengers were made to suffer for 3 hours till the time the engineers came and repaired the ACs. To add to the grief, it is being alleged that the crew members were rude and unhelpful.

One of the passengers, Chandni Doulatramani, who was traveling with her two elderly parents, recounted the experience on her Facebook Post.

“On the 8th of June, I was flying back via Singapore Airlines (SQ 516) to Calcutta with my parents (both senior citizens) and younger sister from Brisbane. We had a layover in Singapore and after six hours of being in transit, we were ready to board our flight that was scheduled to take off at 9.10pm Singapore time. We were put on a bus that would take us to our aircraft. With very few seats available and all taken, the majority of us were standing. The driver started the bus, moved it by half an inch, and then got off the bus. He repeated this four times. Everytime we thought we were going to leave, he got off. It was about 30 minutes we had been trapped inside with no explanation, no reasons. My 73 year-old father and many other senior citizens and toddlers were extremely uncomfortable and physically exhausted just standing there in oblivion. Some of us frantically knocked on the door and windows and the driver of the bus shrugged from the outside as if to say “I have no idea what’s going on, don’t yell at me” until one lady from the ground staff (who was earlier anxiously ushering everyone onto the bus as if we were school children or an uneducated lot) came to the bus to ask us to calm down. Some of us, including me, lost our cool at her and yelled at her until she let us off the bus and wait at the terminal. 20 minutes later we were asked to board the aircraft. It was now 9.30pm.

Upon boarding, we were told that the airconditioning in the aircraft was not working and it would be fixed within fifteen minutes. Every five minutes the captain kept giving us live updates on the PA system — “the engineer is on his way”, “the engineer is here and it will be fixed soon”, “please bear with us, the temperature will increase for ten minutes before it starts cooling”. Everyone waited patiently until we realised this wasn’t going to get fixed anytime soon. Half an hour had passed with zero ventilation in an aircraft full of passengers. An airhostess at some point told me the aircraft hasn’t been in use for a long time and so the airconditioning was not working. A pregnant lady had gotten so sick she was getting hot flashes and no amount of water splashing helped. Two other women were profusely throwing up in the back of the plane. Everyone was sweating. It was 31 degrees in Singapore and very humid. When we confronted the cabin crew, they had no answers, rudely shut us up, threatened to call the cops to arrest us, and said “we are in the same situation as you are, don’t ask us, we don’t know anything”. If we won’t ask them then who are we supposed to ask? They were not letting us deboard the plane and they weren’t being able to immediately fix the airconditioning problem and they weren’t able to give us any answers. Passengers were using the safety card to fan themselves. Two doctors (a senior citizen couple who had to board the aircraft from another wing in wheelchairs) from my apartment building in Calcutta were on the same plane. When I went to them asking for help for people throwing up, I saw that the gentleman had gotten so sick he had to take off all his clothes and sit in a mere vest. Like us, they were traveling from Australia where it’s anywhere between 6 and 9 degrees right now. The airline didn’t let anybody go. We were being treated like prisoners, being asked to sit in our seats and wear our seatbelts. They told us if we were going to offload ourselves then we wouldn’t be allowed back in and they would put us on another plane which was two days later and they wouldn’t compensate us for any of it. The airline did NOTHING to make us comfortable. They refused us cold water and drinks until much later when we gathered around the pantry demanding for fizz drinks to feel better. My dad, who has a major dehydration problem, felt suffocated and claustrophobic. The pilot kept announcing that they we are about to fly “soon” but nothing happened. Three times the ground police came to our aircraft to understand the problem and did nothing about it despite people crying for help. It seemed like they were just called in to distract us. Later, when the pilot announced they were ready to go, the airconditioning had still not started. Everyone was nervous. When I raised the concern with a ground security police officer, he told me that I shouldn’t be on this plane and that I should immediately get off. People were concerned that what was a “minor problem” took THREE HOURS to fix and very few had confidence we would land safely. In a situation like this, we expected the cabin crew to help us understand the problem and reassure us that it was fixed and safe to fly. As someone generally very afraid and anxious of flying, I raised the safety concern with a male cabin crew, and a lady cabin staff (also the head) overheard as he was explaining to me what had happened, and nastily asked him to ignore everything I was asking or saying. When I told her how can you ask your staff to ignore a passenger, her response was that she didn’t have time for this! Our plane took off at around midnight-12.30am Singapore time.

We were supposed to reach Calcutta at 10.30pm Calcutta time and we landed at 2am. We were on that plan for three hours with zero ventilation in super humid weather, with no way to get out, with a bunch of extremely rude cabin crew, and absolutely nobody helping to make the situation better. This was a traumatic experience not only for me and my senior citizen parents but for everyone on that plane. I strongly believe that this outright racist and dehumanising behaviour was meted out to us because we are Indians and the superiority complex was beyond evident. Singapore Airlines took no responsibility and the captain issued a basic verbal apology over the PA system. To some passengers they handed out universal adapters (!!??!!) as a token of I’m not sure what. We take premium airlines because we have faith in their services and that our journey will be nothing less than comfortable. Singapore Airlines went out of its way to make the experience horrifying for us. They should not have let us board the plane in the first place if they knew there was a problem, which they evidently did when our bus was delayed and we were thrown back into the terminal. I wonder if they would have behaved the same way with passengers in an aircraft flying to New York or London. Well, you know the answer.


A passenger on the aircraft mentioned that if they delay boarding of passengers, the airline is charged a heavy penalty and that is why we were forced into the sauna of a plane! Is this true? To people reading this and those with knowledge about this, I want to know if and how I can take this up legally and whether I can claim a full reimbursement?
Appreciate any and all kind of help and support. Please share widely. Thank you!” 

On the 8th of June, I was flying back via Singapore Airlines (SQ 516) to Calcutta with my parents (both senior citizens) and younger sister from Brisbane. We had a layover in Singapore and after six hours of being in transit, we were ready to board our flight that was scheduled to take off at 9.10pm Singapore time. We were put on a bus that would take us to our aircraft. With very few seats available and all taken, the majority of us were standing. The driver started the bus, moved it by half an inch, and then got off the bus. He repeated this four times. Everytime we thought we were going to leave, he got off. It was about 30 minutes we had been trapped inside with no explanation, no reasons. My 73 year-old father and many other senior citizens and toddlers were extremely uncomfortable and physically exhausted just standing there in oblivion. Some of us frantically knocked on the door and windows and the driver of the bus shrugged from the outside as if to say "I have no idea what's going on, don't yell at me" until one lady from the ground staff (who was earlier anxiously ushering everyone onto the bus as if we were school children or an uneducated lot) came to the bus to ask us to calm down. Some of us, including me, lost our cool at her and yelled at her until she let us off the bus and wait at the terminal. 20 minutes later we were asked to board the aircraft. It was now 9.30pm. Upon boarding, we were told that the airconditioning in the aircraft was not working and it would be fixed within fifteen minutes. Every five minutes the captain kept giving us live updates on the PA system — "the engineer is on his way", "the engineer is here and it will be fixed soon", "please bear with us, the temperature will increase for ten minutes before it starts cooling". Everyone waited patiently until we realised this wasn't going to get fixed anytime soon. Half an hour had passed with zero ventilation in an aircraft full of passengers. An airhostess at some point told me the aircraft hasn't been in use for a long time and so the airconditioning was not working. A pregnant lady had gotten so sick she was getting hot flashes and no amount of water splashing helped. Two other women were profusely throwing up in the back of the plane. Everyone was sweating. It was 31 degrees in Singapore and very humid. When we confronted the cabin crew, they had no answers, rudely shut us up, threatened to call the cops to arrest us, and said "we are in the same situation as you are, don't ask us, we don't know anything". If we won't ask them then who are we supposed to ask? They were not letting us deboard the plane and they weren't being able to immediately fix the airconditioning problem and they weren't able to give us any answers. Passengers were using the safety card to fan themselves. Two doctors (a senior citizen couple who had to board the aircraft from another wing in wheelchairs) from my apartment building in Calcutta were on the same plane. When I went to them asking for help for people throwing up, I saw that the gentleman had gotten so sick he had to take off all his clothes and sit in a mere vest. Like us, they were traveling from Australia where it's anywhere between 6 and 9 degrees right now. The airline didn't let anybody go. We were being treated like prisoners, being asked to sit in our seats and wear our seatbelts. They told us if we were going to offload ourselves then we wouldn't be allowed back in and they would put us on another plane which was two days later and they wouldn't compensate us for any of it. The airline did NOTHING to make us comfortable. They refused us cold water and drinks until much later when we gathered around the pantry demanding for fizz drinks to feel better. My dad, who has a major dehydration problem, felt suffocated and claustrophobic. The pilot kept announcing that they we are about to fly "soon" but nothing happened. Three times the ground police came to our aircraft to understand the problem and did nothing about it despite people crying for help. It seemed like they were just called in to distract us. Later, when the pilot announced they were ready to go, the airconditioning had still not started. Everyone was nervous. When I raised the concern with a ground security police officer, he told me that I shouldn't be on this plane and that I should immediately get off. People were concerned that what was a "minor problem" took THREE HOURS to fix and very few had confidence we would land safely. In a situation like this, we expected the cabin crew to help us understand the problem and reassure us that it was fixed and safe to fly. As someone generally very afraid and anxious of flying, I raised the safety concern with a male cabin crew, and a lady cabin staff (also the head) overheard as he was explaining to me what had happened, and nastily asked him to ignore everything I was asking or saying. When I told her how can you ask your staff to ignore a passenger, her response was that she didn't have time for this! Our plane took off at around midnight-12.30am Singapore time. We were supposed to reach Calcutta at 10.30pm Calcutta time and we landed at 2am. We were on that plan for three hours with zero ventilation in super humid weather, with no way to get out, with a bunch of extremely rude cabin crew, and absolutely nobody helping to make the situation better. This was a traumatic experience not only for me and my senior citizen parents but for everyone on that plane. I strongly believe that this outright racist and dehumanising behaviour was meted out to us because we are Indians and the superiority complex was beyond evident. Singapore Airlines took no responsibility and the captain issued a basic verbal apology over the PA system. To some passengers they handed out universal adapters (!!??!!) as a token of I’m not sure what. We take premium airlines because we have faith in their services and that our journey will be nothing less than comfortable. Singapore Airlines went out of its way to make the experience horrifying for us. They should not have let us board the plane in the first place if they knew there was a problem, which they evidently did when our bus was delayed and we were thrown back into the terminal. I wonder if they would have behaved the same way with passengers in an aircraft flying to New York or London. Well, you know the answer.A passenger on the aircraft mentioned that if they delay boarding of passengers, the airline is charged a heavy penalty and that is why we were forced into the sauna of a plane! Is this true? To people reading this and those with knowledge about this, I want to know if and how I can take this up legally and whether I can claim a full reimbursement?Appreciate any and all kind of help and support. Please share widely. Thank you!

Posted by Chandni Doulatramani on Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Chandni reached out to the airlines, who then replied that investigation into the issue is on.

The Logical Indian spoke to few other passengers who echoed similar sentiments.

Dr. Radha Rani Basu was traveling with her husband and daughter. “We landed in Singapore at 7:30 PM and our flight to Kolkata was at 9 PM. We were rushed for boarding. My husband was in wheelchair. When 400 passengers attended the flight, it became like a hot furnace with no ventilation.” Dr. Basu also mentions that her husband is diabetic, “We asked for a diabetic diet for him. The last meal we had was three hours back. I was really worried for my husband, what is blood sugar, what is his Sodium (level). After which they gave us peanuts and cold drinks.”

She also tells how one of the passengers who was outraging was made to deplane and was handed over to police. “I was shocked. My only question is, why were we made to board such a flight in first place.”

Another passenger, Mr. P D Goel, “We were made to wait in the bus which was supposed to take us to flight for one hour.” Speaking of the crew’s behaviour, he said, “There was a hot exchange between the passengers and the crew. Handling (of the situation) was very bad and this is one of the best airlines, nobody can expect this type of mishandling or misbehaviour.”

The Logical Indian has reached out Singapore Airlines for its comments for which they replied, “Singapore Airlines flight SQ516 operating from Singapore to Kolkata on 8 June 2018, experienced technical issues on the ground resulting in a 2 hour 52 minutes delay. Singapore Airlines sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused to the passengers on board.”


The Logical Indian take

It is quite disappointing to see an airline with such a repute being so negligent to their passengers. One can only imagine how daunting it would be when made to wait on a flight with zero ventilation for three hours. Even elderly persons and the pregnant lady was not tended to. Crew’s misbehavior added on to the already deplorable situation.

The Logical Indian strongly condemns the complete mismanagement on the airlines part and hopes that such incidents don’t happen again.


Contributors

Edited by : Bharat Nayak

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