Airlines

PSA: Scoot call centre shuts down. Here’s what you can do

Scoot's call centre in the Philippines will be shut indefinitely. Here's what you can do to help yourself.

Well this can’t be good.

Scoot announced early this morning that their Philippines-based call centre will be suspending operations from 17 March 2020 due to the lockdown over there.

An earlier version of the announcement stated that the closure will be until 13 April, but an updated version removed that line. I suppose they themselves are unclear at the moment about the timeline going forward.

This centre provides English, Japanese, Korean, Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa Indonesia, Vietnamese, Thai, and Tamil language support. Scoot says that there will be reduced capabilities for handling English calls, however Mandarin and Cantonese support will still be available.

What should you do?

Needless to say, this couldn’t have come at a worse time. Scoot, like pretty much every other airline, has cancelled and suspended a staggering number of flights over the past few months. Every flight cancelled is another hundred or so people who need rebooking or refunds, and if you thought wait times were bad before, well…

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But it may not be necessary to call at all. 

Don’t call: If you need a date change

If you need to make a date change, Scoot is offering a free one-time date change that can be done online via the Manage My Booking function.

Date changes must be made at least 4 hours prior to your original flight’s departure time or by 31 May 2020, whichever is earlier. You can move the date to a maximum of 27 March 2021. 

Free date changes apply to all bookings made from 10 March to 14 May 2020. If your booking was made before this date, you may still be eligible- check the travel restrictions page for more information.

Do remember that although the date change fee is waived, fare differences may still apply.

Call: If you want to change your destination

If you’re impacted by a travel restriction and want to fly to a different destination, Scoot will waive the change fee provided your new departure date is no later than 31 August 2020. 

You’ll still need to pay any applicable fare differences. Unfortunately, this can’t be done online, so you’ll need to call in.

Don’t Call: If you want a refund

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If your intention is to get a refund, sit tight. Scoot announced on 16 March 2020 that it will launch a self-service refund portal by 19 March 2020, which allows eligible customers to obtain the full value of their booking in the form of a voucher.

Obviously, if your flight is scheduled to depart before 19 March 2020, then you should get on the phone right now

This is applicable to bookings made on/before 15 March 2020, for travel up to 31 May 2020. Vouchers are valid for 12 months, and can be applied to future bookings- think of it as open ticketing, budget airline style.

What if you want a cash refund? Sorry, but unless your travel is to one of the following destinations, you’re out of luck:

  • Berlin
  • Jeddah
  • Seoul
  • Sapporo (via Taipei)
  • Mainland China

These customers will receive a full refund to their original form of payment on the unused portion of the itinerary within 30 days, and no action is needed on their part.

Now, if you’re traveling elsewhere, the best you can hope for is a Scoot voucher. Yes, I get that the recent extension of the SHN to arrivals from ASEAN countries makes travel pretty much infeasible. However, that’s not how the airlines see it.

The exception is when your Scoot cancels your flight. If that happens, you’ll get a full refund, regardless of destination

That’s because there’s a difference between a travel advisory and a travel restriction. MOH has issued a travel advisory regarding all non-essential travel abroad. You can still go if you want, but it’s not recommended (plus, you may be hit with a SHN upon return).

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Travel restrictions, on the other hand, work differently. As per gov.sg:

Travel restrictions – 3 types

Some countries may have restrictions against travellers from Singapore, including those who have been in transit.

Here’s a broad guideline of the type of travel restrictions in place: 

1. Deny entry

Some countries deny entry to all foreign visitors who have been in or transited through Singapore within the last 14 days.

2. Allow entry, but subject to quarantine/self-isolation

Some countries may subject foreign visitors who have been in or transited through Singapore to a quarantine or self-isolation period of 14 days upon arrival.
 
3. Allow entry upon clearing medical screenings

Some countries may only allow entry to visitors from Singapore that have passed through medical screenings at checkpoints, such as temperature screenings or swab tests.

If one of these is in place for the country you’re traveling to, you should qualify for an outright refund.

Otherwise, calling up and arguing for a cash refund is wasting your time, the CSO’s time and the time of everyone else waiting in the queue.

Call: If your flight is leaving in the next 72 hours

If none of the above options are available to you and your flight is departing in the next 72 hours, then get on the phone- but be prepared to wait it out.

Based on past experience, Mandarin and Cantonese speaking agents are usually conversant in English as well, and have shorter wait times, so you can try your luck (provided you understand enough of the phone prompts to get put through to a human).

Conclusion

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Remember that all of the above applies only to passengers holding tickets departing on/before 31 May 2020.

If your departure date is beyond that horizon, wait it out. This is a rapidly developing situation, and there’s no point speculating what can/may happen. Rest assured that if things aren’t cleared up by then, airlines will certainly extend their policies accordingly.

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