Grounded! SIA’s new website kills Taipei trip

SIA A380 second picture.gifHow hard can it be to book a round trip ticket to Taipei on Singapore
Airlines? With its old website, easy. Since the launch of its new website in
May, impossible.

Logging on with my UserID and PIN was easy enough. On the
site itself loading up the flights on my desired dates was no problem, but then
I was stopped cold. There are three flights daily to Taipei, where I need to travel between the 10th
and 12th of August to attend an air show. I can book the outbound leg or the
inbound leg, but not both at the same time.

Trying to book the second leg produces an unfriendly
message: “This option cannot be combined with the selected fair family in the
onward journey.” No matter what I do, this message eventually pops up. Perhaps
there is a way to change the fare family, but I could not work it out. Am I
just bad at tech? Perhaps I’ll fly to Taipei,
cover the air show for Flightglobal, and stay there.

I’m not entirely surprised by my experience. My girlfriend spent
a recent Saturday morning cursing the new site. After one hour she gave up and
called customer service. My colleague says he could book a flight on his
Krisflyer iPhone app, but this wouldn’t let him book his seats. Eventually he
called SIA in frustration. 

“It took them a day to sort it all out,” says he. “To be
fair they were really nice, considering all the hassle they are probably getting
these days.”

How could this happen to the mighty SIA? In the past this branding
juggernaut has been brilliant at transitions. In 2007 the carrier’s launch of
the first A380 was an international marketing coup. The “First to fly the A380″
extravaganza cast SIA as ultra-modern and yet brought romance back to travel,
an antidote to the cramped, anonymous experience of budget air travel.

My girlfriend works for a big IT firm. I asked her about
software migrations.

“They probably did what we call a big bang,” she replied. “A
big bang sees everything migrated all at once. It’s very risky. Big internet firms
offer users the option to use the previous version of the site until they sort out
the bugs in the new site.”

“That makes sense. Why didn’t SIA do this?”

“I have no idea, but a big bang is much cheaper.”

Sadly myself, my girlfriend, and my colleague are not alone.
Complaints about the new site on Twitter and Facebook are legion.

Long term impact of all this? Krisflyer miles and SIA’s route
network ensure the local market remains captive, but what of travellers in overseas
markets such as the UK and Australia?
I’ve not heard of any issues on the Qantas and British Airways sites lately.

However vexing the site ‘upgrade’ may be to SIA’s prospective
customers, eventually the airline will sort it out. Perhaps it will be superior
to the old site, which many felt was excellent.

Advice to SIA: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

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