Quality & Business Improvement

Singapore Airlines as a world-class service provider

Characteristics of a world-class provider are:

SIA has consistently argued that the airline industry is a service industry and that the major metric of success will be the quality of service provided. Consequently, this has been used, since the airline's inception, as a tool of competitive advantage, focusing on the "Singapore Girl" as an icon to confirm both its national identity and the Asian tradition of "gentle,courteous service"(2).

The success of this approach is shown by the consistent rise in number of passengers chosing to fly by SIA(1).

The Company was formally set up in 1972(2) as a national airline, following the dissolution of Malaysia-Singapore Airlines.Currently (March 2000), the airline has 97 aircraft in operation (plus 63 confirmed on order and 55 on option)(1) and operates 624 weekly passenger flights from Singapore. The Group's route network (including subsidiaries SilkAir and cargo) covers 91 destinations in 40 countries.

It must be noted that an essential discrepancy of service perception is that its definition will depend on the view of of the recipient, rather than that of the provider. This has culture and variability implications for all parties concerned(4).

In theory, the prime duty of an airline is to provide comfortable and safe pasage with efficient services from ground level (departure) to cruising altitude and back again (arrival)(5). However, SIA is operating in a competitive industry,where passengers have a choice of airlines for all SIA destinations. To attract and retain passengers, SIA concentrates heavily on customer feedback and uses this, together with staff suggestions, as a tool for innovative change. For example, SIA was the first major airline to offer free handsets, choice of meals and free drinks in Economy class (1970s) and was also first to provide satellite-based in-flight telephones (1991)(6).

Aware, however, that "boredom is the scourge of the long-haul passenger"(7), SIA introduced in-flight entertainment (video, audio, games, destination information) for all passengers in all classes of the B747 planes, as a way of pleasantly distracting them from the flight. This type of service is not necessary for passengers, in that it does not affect the transportation aspects, but it does (favourably) affect the passengers' attitude towards the airline.

SIA is aware that the customers' perception of an airline's service may extend beyond the actual journey and may, for example, cover ticket booking, baggage handling, waiting lounges, connections between flights and distance walked between plane and airport exits, not all of which are under SIA control. These are mostly handled, on SIA's behalf, through subsidiary and associated companies; SIA also uses alliances, such as the Star Alliance (April 2000)(1) or Virgin(8) to improve customer services and to concentrate on the "cradle to grave" philosophy of customer satisfaction.

The care taken by SIA to promote customer delight has been recognised by the multitude of awards and repeat awards it has achieved. In 2000-2001(1), it achieved over 24 major awards for best/preferred/top airline, in addition to awards for food, wine and service; a substantial majority of these were repeat awards - for example, readers of "Conde Nast Traveller" named SIA "Best Airline" for the 12th time in 13 years. "Holiday Which!" named SIA "Best Airline" for the 3rd time (June 1999),with 81% of travellers saying they would recommend it to a friend(9).

The awards, combined with the increasing number of people voluntarily choosing SIA, show the confidence people have in the airline. The combination of quality, service with technology and innovation is a winning formula and the infrastructure of modern aircraft, investments in the home base of Changi Airport, plus refurbishments in SIA foreign lounges internationally(1) adds to the comfort and security of passengers.

© Fell Services Ltd., 2004

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