SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): A New Zealand couple on a Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight who were seated next to a snorting, farting dog have been given a refund of about S$1,600.
Gill Press and her husband Warren bought premium economy tickets for a 13-hour flight from Paris to Singapore in June but were dismayed to find an emotional support dog in their row, seated on the floor.
Speaking to New Zealand news outlet Stuff, Gill said the animal – which appeared to be a French bulldog – farted and slobbered all over Warrens’ legs.
The couple tried to stick it out in premium economy but in the end moved to the only available seats – in economy class – when the stink from their flatulent neighbour became unbearable, said Gill.
A week later, she e-mailed a complaint to the national carrier, sparking a three-month-long wrangle.
SIA had earlier offered the couple KrisShop vouchers worth $200, and then travel vouchers worth $320, but the couple said nothing short of a full refund would do.
“We didn’t receive the experience we paid for,” Gill said.
However, the latest SIA offer settled the dispute.
In response to queries, an SIA spokesman said the couple accepted an offer to reimburse them the difference in airfare between premium economy and economy class. The difference totalled NZ$982.50 (S$795) each.
The refund came on top of the $320 in travel vouchers given to the couple.
Gill said they plan to donate the money to a charity for guide dogs.
“It wasn’t about the money in the end. The fight was more about principles and not normalising things that really aren’t normal and acceptable,” she said.
Since April 1, SIA has banned emotional support dogs on board its flights, although it is still allowing customers to travel with their dogs if they made a request and submitted the required documents before the ban kicked in.
Emotional support animals are pets certified by a mental health professional as necessary for the mental health of their owners.
They are not the same as service or assistance animals – like seeing-eye dogs or guide dogs – trained to help those with disabilities in daily life.
Approved assistance dogs are still allowed on board SIA flights.
A spokesman for the airline earlier said it 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,” the spokesman added.