Singapore Airlines told to pay Indian couple SGD 3,400 for seat recline function failure in business class

An Indian couple has successfully sued Singapore Airlines (SIA) for the discomfort they experienced while flying business class from Hyderabad to Perth (in Australia) in May 2023. The airline has been ordered by a consumer forum in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad to pay the couple a total compensation equivalent to nearly SGD 3,400.

Singapore Airlines aircraft
Singapore Airlines first offered to compensate the Indian couple with 10,000 KrisFlyer miles, but this offer was rejected, and the case was taken to a consumer forum in Hyderabad, from where the couple had boarded the flight. Representative photo courtesy: Instagram/singaporeair

The discomfort was caused by the fact that the couple — complainant Ravi Gupta and his wife — paid a premium for business class seats on the flight, but during the Hyderabad-Singapore leg of the flight, their seats could not be reclined as the mechanism malfunctioned.

Sitting upright for several hours during the flight meant the couple could not sleep, though they paid INR 66,750 rupees (around SGD 1,090) per seat, according to the complaint filed with the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission-III in Hyderabad.

When Gupta first took his complaint to Singapore Airlines, the carrier offered to give him 10,000 KrisFlyer miles, but he rejected this. The couple felt that apart from the “extra legroom” in business class, the flying experience was like that of economy class, despite the huge difference in ticket price.

Therefore, he went to the consumer forum and got an order for cash compensation.

SIA has been ordered to pay back the difference in economy class and business class ticket prices (a difference of nearly SGD 800 per seat), with 12 per cent interest added from the date of the flight till the date of the refund.

Additionally, SIA has been asked to give the flyer couple INR 100,000 rupees (about SGD 1,633) for “mental agony and physical suffering”, and another INR 10,000 rupees (about SGD 163) to reimburse the cost of the consumer case. This adds up to about SGD 3,400.

The Singapore news website Mothership reached out to SIA, which confirmed the order of the Hyderabad consumer forum. A SIA spokesperson said that while the Hyderabad-Singapore leg of the flight (4 hours) saw the seat control malfunction, there were “no issues” on the Singapore-Perth leg of the flight.

Clarifying why the Guptas could not be moved from their faulty seats, the SIA spokesperson said: “As it was a full flight, SIA staff unfortunately could not reseat them elsewhere in the business class cabin. Our crew proactively checked in on these customers regularly and offered to manually recline the seat when needed.”

While issuing an apology “to Mr and Mrs Gupta for the inconvenience caused by this mechanical issue”, the spokesperson declined to confirm whether SIA would compensate the couple or appeal the consumer forum order.