NZ couple demand fare refund after being seated next to ‘snorting, farting’ dog on SIA flight
A couple from Wellington, New Zealand, have demanded a refund from Singapore Airlines (SIA) after a dog in their row ruined their travel experience, they say.
Mrs Gill Press and her husband Warren had bought premium economy tickets for their 13-hour flight from Paris to Singapore in June.
They had expected greater comfort, but were dismayed to find that the passenger beside them had brought his emotional support dog on board.
“I heard this noise – a heavy snorting,” Mrs Press told New Zealand news outlet Stuff.
“I thought it was my husband’s phone, but we looked down and realised it was the dog breathing. I said, ‘I’m not having this sitting next to us the whole trip.’”
The couple requested a seat change but the cabin crew informed them that the only seats available were at the back of economy class.
Unwilling to downgrade, they decided to stay put. But midway through the flight, they claimed the dog’s presence became unbearable.
Aside from the snorting, it was also farting, they said. The dog was also eating into Mr Press’ legroom, with its head shoved under his feet and saliva dribbling on his leg, Mrs Press said.
“(The owner) couldn’t have the dog out in the aisle because they couldn’t get the trolleys through, so it had to come in farther, which meant his head was under my husband’s feet.
“My husband was in shorts, and was getting the dog’s saliva goo on his leg,” she told Stuff.
Upon another request to change seats, the flight attendants moved the couple to seats at the front of the economy cabin, which had been reserved for staff.
Before landing, the flight attendants told them that an incident report had been filed and that SIA would be in contact with them.
But after a week passed with no news, Mrs Press e-mailed her complaints to the airline.
Two weeks later, the airline responded, offering them gift vouchers worth $200 to use on the KrisShop website. Mrs Press rejected the offer as she felt it was inadequate compensation for the cheaper seats they ended up taking.
After another three weeks, the airline offered them travel vouchers worth $320 instead. But Mrs Press said nothing short of a full refund would do. It is not known how much their tickets cost.
“We didn’t receive the experience we paid for,” she told Stuff.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, an SIA spokesman said: “Singapore Airlines endeavours to notify customers who may be seated next to an assistance dog prior to boarding.
“In circumstances where customers seated next to an assistance dog request to be moved, Singapore Airlines will assist to re-seat customers within the same cabin where space permits.
“In this instance, we were unable to move Mr and Mrs Press within the same cabin as the premium economy class cabin was full.”
When asked about the timeline for customers seeking compensation, SIA said: “The duration of the process is subject to the complexity of the issue.”
Emotional support animals are pets certified as necessary for the mental health of their owners by a mental health professional.
They are distinct from service or assistance animals – like seeing-eye dogs – that are trained to assist those with disabilities in daily life.
In the United States, emotional support animals can accompany owners into typically no-pet zones like restaurants, shops and on board flights.
The designation allows them to fly with their owners uncaged and free of charge.
Since April 1, SIA has banned emotional support dogs on board its flights though it is still honouring travel for customers – and their dogs – who had made a request and submitted the required documentation prior to the date.
Approved assistance dogs are still allowed on board.