Lots of people around Tripadvisor and other review sites looking for the lowdown on the new Scoot Airlines. Below is my take on their offerings. Enjoy ...
So, what to make of the new Singapore Airlines offshoot – Scoot Airlines? This is an interesting question to ponder as this new venture starts to gain a foot hold in the Australia-to-Asia market – and as they start to expand to other destinations. Of the few reviews that exist around the various ‘review websites’ – most are not too complimentary and I feel most of the comments raised by others who have flown Scoot are valid.
My decision to fly Scoot to Singapore was based on one reason, and one reason alone. Their airfares were SO FAR below that of all other carriers on the route, it was impossible to resist and not give the ‘new kids on the block’ a chance. After all, being an off-shoot of one of the world’s best airlines (SQ) – they had to be fairly good, you’d have thought. (I should point out, I was flying to Asia fairly last minute and booked flights only seven days before departure).
Booking Scoot online:
The Scoot website is quite easy to navigate and to make your bookings. Naturally, being a low cost carrier, they have options to add bags (offering only 15kg as standard). Just on the bag charges, if you wish to take more, you should definitely pre-purchase additional luggage allowances at the time of booking and not at the airport where charges are substantially higher. I felt the prices to boost your luggage allowance were very reasonable (only $10SGD for an additional 10kg – making a total of 25kg allowance on my return sector).
You could add a meal package, which I did on the outbound but wisely declined on the inbound. More on the in-flight catering and service in a moment.
Other ‘upgrade/pay more’ options include a move from the standard ‘blue seat’ to a ‘yellow seat’ which apparently has slightly more leg room and is in more comfortable parts of the cabin (a block behind ‘business class’ and down the back of the plane where the row of three seats becomes two – just forward of the rear galley on the 777. I chose to do this in both directions and paid a small premium to do so – about $20AUD per sector if I recall).
Having seen first hand the ‘business class seats’ as I passed through the cabin – I didn’t think they justified the sizeable price increase for what is only a seven and a half odd hour flight. On an overnight flight? Perhaps they’d be worth the extra. They are nowhere near in the league of a true business class product. More akin to a modest premium economy in size only.
At the Airport:
Once at the airport, the boarding was fairly straightforward with passengers in the rear of the plane and those in ‘business class’ going on first. As mentioned, if your luggage allowance is over the allocated 15kgs, you WILL be marched off to the service desk to pay more (a LOT more than if you had pre-purchased at time of booking online).
Sydney to Singapore – push back on time. Overall impressions – you can tell it is a refurbished plane immediately upon boarding. Still parent airline – Singapore Airlines – continue to fly an aging fleet of 777’s on a range of intra-Asian routes which aren’t in much better shape in my opinion. I presume these planes will be turned over to the ‘little brother’ Scoot – as they are retired from the SQ fleet.
The Scoot Seats:
Scoot have installed new seating throughout the aircraft, which they make a positive fuss about on their website. Seats are generally fine, though more than the seven odd hour flight to Singapore, they’d start to get a bit hard on the backside and lower back. One of the most bizarre decisions when designing these new seats was the complete lack of any sort of head rest or neck support. Without some sort of pillow (bring your own – or they will sell you one on board), these seats are particularly uncomfortable if trying to sleep, even more so when the seats are at full recline. (Try lying or sleeping on the floor without a pillow for a few hours – you get the picture).
Legroom was very good – better than Jetstar and other no frills airlines I have flown (Easyjet, Ryanair, Airasia etc). There is no built in entertainment system at all on this aircraft. The positive of this, is that it removes the under seat boxes that often take up legroom on airlines who do have elaborate in flight entertainment systems. If you do want to be entertained, Scoot will hire you an Ipad with pre-loaded movies and games ($20SGD per sector) - a service I declined in both directions, as I had a laptop with good battery life, a smart-phone full of music – used in ‘flight mode’ of course – a newspaper and a couple of books. More than enough to keep this flyer entertained on the run up to Singapore.
In-flight service and meal options:
Scoot let themselves down badly in this department. One look at the photo below (can I add a photo in the forums?) - will give you the reason why you should think twice about pre-purchasing meals for your flight. A cardboard dish, covered in a plastic tear-away wrapper. Some brown stuff at one end of the dish, some yellow rice stuff with a few sultanas at the other end, (this was the chicken biryani, apparently) some barely useable plastic ‘cutlery’ and a can of soft drink. (I paid about $15 for this, if I recall – and hardly worth it). I declined the ‘desert’ when offered – a plastic tub of some sort of preserved fruit. Other options included a lasagne, presented in the same style cardboard dish – which looked like rubber. Perhaps the sandwiches were the pick of the meals. I didn’t see anyone eating these.
‘Meal service’ commenced about an hour into the flight – which is not too bad. I was seated three rows from the galley at the rear of the plane – and found it strange it took about half an hour for the flight attendant to get around to serving me. Yes, 30 minutes to serve just two rows or people behind me (about 8 passengers). The trolley is manned by just one attendant, with food and drinks being dispensed from the same trolley. A trolley and attendant moves up each aisle, with a ‘floater’ attendant going back to the galley as and when required, by either aisle attendant.
In theory, they try to serve people who have pre–ordered food first – but this doesn’t work in reality as people that didn’t pre-order food, insist on ordering their food and drinks, handing over a range of currency for the attendant the manage/juggle – and, well you get the picture. Total disorganisation ensues.
It took the flight attendant, operating on the aisle closet to me – two hours and fifty minutes to service ONE section of the cabin – from the rear of the plane (galley) to the washrooms, mid economy cabin. From row 65 up to row 51. (This is not a typo – almost three hours…) This left me staggered and I couldn’t believe that an airline offshoot of Singapore Airlines – renowned globally for in flight service - would drop the ball so badly. Honestly, I was incensed at this aspect of the Scoot experience. (But I’d fly them again and will reveal why, at the end).
About the time I was starting to eat my ‘biryani’ – the girl in the seat next to me pulled out a Subway sandwich, which she’d purchased prior to the flight. I was jealous. I read someplace on their website that it is ‘forbidden’ to bring your own food on board. But I didn’t see bag checks at the gangway looking for ‘contraband’. Next time, I would definitely bring sandwiches and some snacks and forget the in flight food altogether, other than perhaps purchase a beer or soft drink.
There is an interesting twist to the in flight catering, which happened on the inbound flight to Sydney. Picture all of the above happening again. Except we departed Singapore at 2am in the morning – local time. So, service commences, with cabin lights full ablaze, at about 3am. Sometime between 3am and 5am, the attendant joyfully serves all those people that pre-ordered their food, the same menu of chicken biryani and lasagne and a can of soft drink – some time between 4 and 5.30am in the morning! When most people are half comatose from tiredness and exhaustion, want the lights off and trying to get some shut eye. The insanity of this beggars belief.
What airline in the world would make an assumption that eager passengers will want to tuck into a biryani and Pepsi at 4.30am in the morning? Surely, if someone from Scoot reads this review, you have to have alternative ‘breakfast option’ for an overnight flight such as SIN-SYD. Bring a drinks trolley through after the flight has commenced (2.30-3.00am) - sure. Sell a tube of Pringles or cheese and crackers. Then lights off until around 7am. THEN start your meal service. Try a bacon and egg wrap, or a bowel of cereal + milk, some fruit, a juice or even sell a muesli bar for $2 bucks – how hard can that be? What a total failure of logic and common sense.
I elected to pull a scarf over my head to block out the blazing cabin lights, pushed my earphones in a little harder to block the noise and tried not to look at the watch to see how many hours of the flight to Sydney remained. I did, in the end, get a few hours of fitful sleep, but woke with a sore neck (see notes above about the lack of any head support on the seats).
The wash up:
The flight, in both directions could hardly be considered as enjoyable – but what medium or long haul flights are when you are down the back of the plane. I took the approach that Sydney-Perth is five hours, so what is another couple of hours to Singapore? The flight was about as long as I would like to fly on a low cost carrier, put it that way.
Generally, it seemed the on board cabin attendants are very inexperienced and they have yet to fully sort out their procedures and systems for quickly and efficiently delivering even the most basic levels of customer service during the flight. Perhaps this will come with time?
Several hours after arriving in Singapore, I boarded a flight to Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia and was surprised at the contrast. Fast, efficient, prompt service. Food choices were a small step up from Scoot – just. Maybe the smaller plane (A320) and single aisle configuration loans itself to the ‘no frills’ airline model more, than a hulking great 777 with two aisles and 300+ passengers. Air Asia are and always have been a low cost carrier – it’s in their DNA. Scoot Airlines could learn from their Malaysian rival, for sure.
Having flown Singapore Airlines frequently for many years, I am surprised that none of their expertise seems to have rubbed off on Scoot (yet), particularly in relation to the in flight service – which for me was the most disappointing aspect of the experience. On a positive note, because of the relations between the two airlines and the brilliance and efficiency of Changi Airport – you just knew your bags were going to arrive promptly on the luggage carousel and with minimal fuss once in Singapore. They did.
If you are considering flying with Scoot, I would absolutely recommend you give them a go. Just be aware of their shortcomings in terms of food and beverage service, bring your own entertainment, and a pillow or something for your neck. Singapore is only seven hours or so away – it is not that far.
I would book and fly Scoot again tomorrow. No problems. Why? Because right now, I can find airfares on their website for $189 to Singapore and $174 from Singapore back to Sydney. Throw in some bags on top of the ‘seat only’ fare, for around $20, plus another $10 for an extra 10 kgs of luggage (making 25kg in total), another $20-odd for an upgrade from blue seat to yellow seat – and I have just flown from Sydney, into Asia for about $460 return. Thanks very much.
The next cheapest fare I can find online on the same travel dates is $940 – flying British Airways. For all the issues I’ve mentioned above, I can grin and bare it to save $480.
The arrival of Scoot into Australia is excellent news for travellers on a budget. In time, I expect them to fix the teething issues and improve service levels – they can only go up. Will their prices increase as demand goes up? Who knows – but you would have to think so. Would a double daily service into Singapore be on the cards to meet demand? Lets hope so – as it would likely allow for day time flights in both directions. In time lets hope their network expands within Asia (Bangkok is an excellent start) – but Ho Chi Minh, Manila, Phnom Penh, Phuket would be even better.