Singapore Airlines’ Turnaround

“If girl pretty, food usually bad.” – Confucius

Not too long ago, Singapore Airlines wanted some exciting changes made to its economy class food service.

By introducing paper food boxes, the airline thought it was able to serve a delightful range of “comfort food” options that were not previously available, including mouthwatering dishes like laksa and mee siam. These paper boxes, according to the airline, were designed to retain moisture and heat, ensuring that passengers can savor their meals just the way they should be enjoyed.

Its CEO, who’s paid S$6.73 million annually, explained that the management team had the “pleasure” of tasting these dishes before the trial, and they found them to be absolutely delightful. However, they also understood the importance of passenger feedback, and they were “humbled” by the strong negative response they received after those changes were made. Singapore Airlines learned, albeit a bit too late, that it’s not only about the taste of the food, but also about the overall perception of the inflight service. The visuals, Choon Phong, the visuals!

Initially, there were some misconceptions surrounding the introduction of those horrible-looking brown paper boxes, with many passengers thinking it was a cost-cutting measure that made the airline appear “cheap.” Social media was rife with complaints and sarcastic comments. However, Singapore Airlines clarified that these boxes actually cost more than the plastic casserole dishes they used before. The focus was on providing “an enhanced dining experience” said the airline. (That part about those disposable paper boxes costing more is something I don’t quite understand, but never mind. I don’t get paid S$6.73 million annually, so I am stupid and not expected to have the brains to understand that.)

Singapore Airlines also removed the appetizer from meals because it claimed it conducted a “thorough review” before and discovered that many appetizers were left uneaten. (If you have been served a Singapore Airlines economy class appetizer, you will understand why no one wants to eat it.) As a result, they made the decision to remove the appetizers.

But passengers complained!

So Singapore Airlines has now restored appetizers to all economy class meals on medium, long-haul, and ultra-long-haul flight. Even on short-haul flights, economy class passengers can now relish a delightful meal that includes an appetizer, a bread roll, the main course, and dessert. The appetizer, usually in the form of an inedible salad that I won’t even feed to my least favorite pet turtle, is still usually left uneaten.

Well, you can’t make everyone happy, right?

It’s worth noting that while there is always room for improvement, passengers should manage their expectations when it comes to inflight dining. Flying at 33,000 feet above sea level poses unique challenges, and even the most extravagant airline meals will undergo changes during the flight. Turkish Airlines, for example, has an onboard “chef” (complete with a chef’s hat), but it’s important to remember that airline food remains airline food, regardless of the presentation. In fact, the term “airline food” is an oxymoron and any idiot can put on a chef’s hat and call himself a chef.

Singapore Airlines is held to a very high standard within Singapore, as it carries the hopes and bragging rights of Singaporeans. The airline values its passengers and takes action based on their valuable feedback. It’s true that they may have missed an opportunity to conduct focus groups with passengers – and not its own management team – before introducing the paper boxes, but it looks like they are committed to learning from their mistakes and continuously improving their services. And since I don’t get paid S$6.73 million annually, so I am stupid and therefore, I forgive them and I believe them when they say they are committed to continuously improving their services.

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