It must have been a bittersweet week for Singapore’s national icon, Singapore Airlines (SIA) last week.
SIA born out of the acrimonious dispute with Malaysian Airlines in 1972 is the globe trendsetter, in all but name.
And at a time when the rest of Asian airlines are grounding their fleet owing to murderous competition from budget carriers, SIA stunned the world last week with whopping orders for 20 777-9 and 19 787-10 aircrafts from Boeing firmly sealing its place as an serious competitor not to be trifled with. The orders, will far from creating jobs also reverberate with a roar in the equities markets.
As rosy as the future now looks for SIA compared when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) ravaged entire industries in Asia, the major distraction for it for the week was how it was handling its press relations, or pointedly convalescence policies.
The death of stewardess Vanessa Yeap in San Francisco was a sobering episode astride what the new orders from Boeing told.
In the way her death was reported in the media across the nation conjured an impression that her death was a needless waste of life, with several serving and former airline crew reportedly saying that it was common practice for indisposed crew to forsake doctor’s orders and remain working.
When The Independent reached for a comment from the airline a source said, “I can’t get into specific details regarding HR policies but, rest assured we absolutely do not condone unwell crew operating on flights. The well-being of our staff is obviously very important to us and crew who are given medical leave are encouraged to rest and recuperate at home”
So that sets the record straight on how it should be set. If crew are indeed unwell and required to rest, how could Vanessa’s death been avoided if she hadn’t need to board a flight from San Francisco all the way back to Singapore?.
The jury is perhaps out. Evidently there seems to have been a disconnect between what The Independent knows as SIA’s official policy and the death of a young lady whose only ‘sin’ perhaps, was to be ill and be holed up in a hotel room far removed from Singapore where her employers are.
Though SIA was not probed on this, the same source told crew attendance is a component in the performance management process, but crew performance is measured across many other factors as well, thus leaving out the question that an indisposed cabin crew member on a SIA flight is benchmarked against several factors.
Being ill does not amount therefore, to be underperforming. And SIA knows better that having a heart does mean a whole world of a difference.