Singaporean Customer Service

FED up with constant delays on his regular trips to country NSW, cardiologist Charles Thorburn fired off a letter to regional airline Rex to express his concern about the deterioration of its service.

The airline's "offensive and arrogant" response was not what the doctor ordered.

Dr Thorburn was dumbstruck when, in response to his complaint, Regional Express - which is majority owned by a group of wealthy Singapore investors - questioned whether he would reimburse patients "who did not get well after seeing you".

The letter, sent by Rex's corporate services general manager Irwin Tan on behalf of company chairman Lim Kim Hai, went on to say: "Perhaps in the medical profession you are used to dispensing information on how long you make your patients wait or how often you misdiagnosed."

Yesterday, Dr Thorburn said he was outraged by the airline's sarcastic response to his genuine concerns.

"I didn't ask for reimbursement. I expected a letter of apology and I wouldn't have taken it any further," he said.

Read the full story [link]


Update: Full details of letter exchange

Rex's response to Dr Thorburn's letter

Dear Mr Thorburn

My Chairman Lim Kim Hai has received your letter dated 30 May 2012 and has instructed me to respond as follows:

1. Rex is not perfect and occasionally we do have failures of equipment and service standards. We are not proud of this and we are truly sorry to have caused any inconvenience to anybody.

2. That being the case, we think we are still much better than all the airlines in Australia and most of the airlines in the world.

3. Your entitlement to compensation is governed by our conditions of carriage which you have accepted. In this case you are not entitled to anything. If, as you say, you find the conditons unsatisfactory, why did you accept them in the first place? I would be curious to know if you would reimburse any of your patients who do not get well after seeing you? If you don't, why not?

4. We are not providing you with the statistics you are requesting for. Perhaps in the medical profession you are used to dispensing information on how long you make your patients wait or how often you misdiagnosed.

5. I am not aware of any particular pattern of cancellations/delays. If this could be foreseen in advance believe me it would not have happened.


Irwin Tan

GM Corporate Service

Dr Thorburn's original letter to Rex

Dear Sir

I wish to complain about the service provided by Regional Express to Griffith in particular.

For about 20 years now I have been providing a cardiology outpatient service at Griffith Hospital on a Friday.

Over the years there has been a deterioration in the reliability of the service and the ability of REX to inform its passengers and provide reasonable alternatives for getting customers back to Sydney.

On Friday May 25, having flown down to Griffith on the morning flight, we arrived at the airport for the last afternoon flight back to Sydney.

It turned out that the plane was stuck at Narrandera. Information for this was provided by passengers who received mobile calls from customers on the flight from Narrandera.

Eventually we were informed by the ground staff at Griffith that the plane needed repairs and that engineers were being flown out from Wagga to Narrandera and in the meantime we should go on a bus to Narrandera.

Why this decision was made remains a mystery.

When we got to Narrandera the plane was still not operational but eventually it was thought to be safe, although the alternative plane was considered only fit to fly engineers and not passengers.

In any case the plane took off with the stranded Narrandera passengers and flown to Griffith.

An hour later the plane returned but was unable to land for a quarter of an hour and when it finally did so was stuck on the runway.

After another hour or so the plane was moved off the runway, further work was done on it. All this time we were provided virtually no information.


I thought the complain letter was reasonably polite and the writer has grounds to ask for an explanation. Our Singaporean friend working in Regional Express however, made a reply which broke every single rule of the Customer Service handbook. If I am PM Lee, I will take this article and shove it in Singaporeans' asses on the 29th August 2012 and tell everyone, "Look, this is why we hire Pinoys for customer service."


  1. Well said! Sorry to say some ppl are just too arrogant for their own good. Also how can they compare an airline service with the medical profession? I feel insulted.


    Letter from the doctor. I'm more interested in the reply letter from Rex.

  3. Typical "pastor and professor" mentality.
    Thought they only use it on S'poreans, didn't know that they have "migrated" their mentality to Aust.

  4. i dont want to speculate, and i cant help feeling that NS have a role in the way we handle things. The top-down approaches and no-query culture is essential and critical in managing military operations. The "i am always right because of my rank" practice is actually very detrimental to our EQ. However, many men, including myself, do bring such practices into our daily lives.

    This is just my wild guess, observation and speculation. I am not here to debate about the necessity of NS.

  5. Rex Regional Express Chairman: (taken from Rex Regional Express website)

    Lim Kim Hai
    Executive Chairman

    Mr. Lim, based in Singapore, has been awarded two scholarships by the Singapore government. The first was to complete an undergraduate cum Masters degree in electronics engineering in the prestigious French 'Grande Ecole' schools of engineering. The second was awarded while he was serving with the Ministry of Defence of Singapore to complete a Masters in Public Administration at the elite Ecole Nationale d'Administration of France. After a period of 10 years as a Defence Specialist Engineer, Mr. Lim left the civil service to start his own businesses. Mr. Lim currently has an extensive portfolio of investment and has business interests in many countries. He is the Chairman of a biomedical company, Lynk Biotechnologies Private Limited, and is also Chairman of WooWorld Private Limited which is a supplier of online and mobile games to telecommunication companies in China, Japan and South East Asia.

    Mr. Lim was appointed to the board of Rex on 27 June 2003. He was re-elected to the Board on 16 Nov 2006 and 25 November 2009.

    The Rex Chairman must be dammed proud of being a scholar! Note that he mentioned all his awarded scholarships! (As if that means anything in the business world)

    I'm surprised he didn't include his results slips from all the university courses he took!

    Why does the company expect it's paying customers to respond to a insulting letter just because it's sent by the Chairman?

    Let me quote a Malay saying: A fish rots from the head.

  6. In Australia we generally work by the rule that the customer is always right, otherwise they take their business elsewhere. Because we have such a small population it isn't easy to sustain a lot of companies in the same line of business so keeping paying customers onside is a priority. This airline needs some customer service skills quick smart !

  7. The second was awarded while he was serving with the Ministry of Defence of Singapore to complete a Masters in Public Administration at the elite Ecole Nationale d'Administration of France...

    Customer Service Careers

  8. Hope Mr Tan never needs a cardiologist in a hurry!

  9. I apologize on behalf of all Singaporeans for this douche bag

  10. now you probably think twice before you tell anyone there that you are a Singaporean. Damn! it used to feel so good and so proud telling people just that!

    1. Don't worry, every country has dick heads.

  11. fault lies on the customer as well as the airline side.

    customer fault:

    1)demanded reports on airline down reports which only maintenance employees and management are allowed access he an airline employee in engineering?if not he shouldnt demand on reports that he has no rights to.

    2)as the doctor customer didnt know what the maintenance flight was meant for except as his ticket back to his destination,he had no knowledge of what the airline was doing but insisted everything to go his way for his sure if the aircraft had a wheel missing ,he would still insist on flying on it too.
    im not sure if he could do any heart surgery on anyone ,he would probably do a heart bypass on my arteries linked to any vein he could get a hold on without thinking from the logic he has on planes and its functional flights.

    airline management fault:

    1)the reply letter had too much info and was much too should be written more professionally.

    stop beating up an airline just becsause its singaporean or asian owned.
    if it was german owned,would there be the same response from people in here?of course not!most probably most of u would think the doctor had one too many morphine shots and needded to get home quickly for his next shot.