In the past I wrote a couple of posts about traveling in and around Taiwan. One of them was more of a general post about how Taiwan can be used as an Asian travel hub. I also wrote one that gave in depth details about the cost of using a discount airline.
Having recently come back to Taiwan after going on that short trip, I thought it might be nice to discus exactly how the flight on Scoot went.
Know Before You Go
I am going to start this a little bit backwards, but this is part is more about raw facts and less about my own personal opinion and experience. Doing some travel planning before you actually board a jet of a discount airline can make your flight a lot better.
I don’t mean plans for your vacation, but plans for the actual to and from your destination. Once you are locked away inside a metal tube propelling itself though the air, you are at the whim of the owner of that metal tube, and Scoot is well aware of this.
Once boarded and in the air you basically have received everything that you already paid for. Unlike major airlines, Scoot offers absolutely nothing as complimentary service. Everything from a sip of water to a paper-thin blanket has an attached extra fee.
Note: At the time this post was first written, major airlines were still a bit friendly with their onboard service, but it seems that you need to really be aware as to what is included even with them now.
You are allowed on carry-on piece of luggage, but anything checked is and extra fee and must be paid for in advance (or you face an insanely high surcharge).
It’s not a giant problem if you know this beforehand, though Scoot would of course prefer that you rely solely on their overpriced paid services. They even make sure to tell you several times that outside food and drinks are prohibited.
I think it’s important to understand that this is a Scoot policy and not a safety policy. They want you buying their food and drinks at inflated rates as compensation for lower ticket prices.
Some of the prices on the Taipei – Singapore route are as follows:
- 330ml bottle of water: ~ $3 USD
- small can of soda: ~ $3 USD
- 1 can of beer: ~ $5.50 USD
- airplane sized snack packs: ~$2 – 3 USD
- heated meal (microwave dinner): ~ $12 – $15 USD
*These may have gone up in 2020.
While this is fine for short flights, it could get pricey for anything over a few hours, and the selection wasn’t exactly full of mouthwatering delicacies. I have actually never had a problem with airplane food, but this was probably the lowest quality I have seen. In all fairness though, there were quite a few people, me included, that brought on the forbidden “outside food” to snack on.
The flight crew didn’t seem to mind, though they weren’t very assessable anyway and might not have noticed. If you do plan to bring on your own food, smaller is better. A 12-inch Subway tuna on wheat might be pushing your luck.
As far as inflight entertainment goes, that is also available at an extra free. The jets that Scoot uses don’t have any screens; neither shared nor individual. Instead you can rent a preloaded iPad.
The system was a little confusing, but from the sales literature on board it looks like it ran about $10 USD and the movie selection was what you would expect on most planes. They had one or two newer blockbusters and then a handful of year old flicks to choose from. I didn’t try this though so I can’t go into better detail.
If anyone reading this has used the Scoot iPad service before, I would love to hear your opinions on it.
The last thing I noticed was that the plane was kept extremely cold and the crew spent most of their time keeping passengers awake. During a roughly 4-hour flight, we were warned of turbulence that never came at least 3 times. Anyone who was sleeping was woken up so that the crew could check his or her seatbelts. Seats had to be returned upright.
I can only assume cold restless passengers pay more for food and blankets.
Are We There Yet?
Aside from the costly add-ons, which can mostly be avoided if you plan properly, the biggest problem I had with Scoot was their service and attitude. I can handle $5 beers. I can’t handle confusing and misleading information and poor policies.
Right from the start Scoot raised some red flags. When purchasing your tickets, after getting through the whole process they charge you an extra fee. I think it was worded as some kind of online purchase convenience charge. It wasn’t much, maybe around $10 USD, but it was far from transparent or convenient.
To my knowledge there is no other way to purchase airfare from Scoot expect via the Internet. In my opinion, this is nothing more than a way to keep advertised prices appear lower than what the flights actually cost customers.
Next was the check-in counter experience. Overall it was OK. The line was a little messy and there appeared to be the occasional line cutter, but it wasn’t anything outrageous The women handling my booking got confused with my paperwork and passport, but she managed to figure it out herself in a reasonable amount of time.
I had no problems with the prepaid luggage I had purchased for the flight. Everything seemed to be running smoothly until I received my boarding pass. I checked the boarding time and gate number (as the clerk made no effort to show me), and they had me boarding the plane a full hour before the scheduled takeoff. An hour? Does it really take an entire hour to board a Scoot jet?
As the good little rule follower that I am I went through security, bought a few things for the flight, and hustled to the gate. The flight was scheduled to take off at 1:45 so my boarding time was 12:45.
To really make a point of things and see just why I needed to be so a full hour in advance, I made sure to get there about 15 minutes before that, so I actually got to the gate at about 12:30. My good will turned out to be totally fruitless though as I then sat at the gate for almost an hour until they began boarding roughly 15 minutes before the scheduled take off time. This actual scenario happened both flying out of and back to Taiwan via Scoot, so it must be some odd policy that they have in place. It’s a giant waste of time for the passenger though.
After an unnecessarily long wait it was finally time to board. Boarding was OK. I thought the seat was fine. I actually liked it as it seemed to be a more naturally shaped seat than many other airlines I have used in the past. The leg room was OK.
I put my carry-on in the overhead bin, sat down, buckled up, and waited. And then I waited some more. And I kept waiting. We sat parked for at least 30 minutes without any type of explanation from the crew. I think it was closer to 45 minutes before the pilot jumped on the PA and told us we were about to taxi to the runway. We sat maybe another 5 minutes before that started. For a short flight this is manageable though annoying, but I would hate to be stuck sitting in a parked jet for an hour before takeoff for a long flight.
One positive note about the flight that I failed to mention before was that the landing was exceptionally smooth on both flights.
Would I Use Scoot Again?
This is the real question. It was OK. It got me to and from Singapore without breaking the bank. I had a good vacation, so it served its purpose. I would probably use Scoot again, but only for short trips, maybe 4 hours maximum. Anything over that and I think it could become a bit of a bad experience.
There are also a few things that will make any future trips on Scoot a lot better than if you decide to go without considering them.
- I wouldn’t over pack and bring luggage that needs to be checked. I didn’t have many problems, but I have read a lot of reports about people having absolutely terrible experiences dealing with lost luggage and Scoot’s customer service. Having seen the lackluster service first hand, I tend to give the stories more weight than just an unhappy customer.
- I would bring a book, a few magazines, and a tablet loaded with reading material, movies and music (downloaded, not streaming) as there really is nothing to do on the plane. Even their duty free catalog is extremely small and lacking.
- I would bring a hoody or light jacket and dress in layers like I was going on a camping trip.
- I would eat a giant meal before boarding and also bring lots of small snacks to get me through the flight.
- This one goes only for flying out of Changi Airport in Singapore. Don’t bother buying water or any other drinks before boarding as they have security set up at each individual gate and not at one general choke point. They won’t let you take any liquids on, and there isn’t anywhere to buy any after security. Bring some cash to buy some on the plane.
Overall, it was an OK experience. It was far from awesome, but I am the person that would rather spend money on food and activities once in a new place instead of on the flight and hotel.
I don’t believe any of the up-sells on Scoot are worth the money though, and if you want to fly in comfort with food, drinks, and entertainment, pick a major airline. You may pay a little more, but they are a better value if you need those extras. If you OK with cheap barebones travel, then there is nothing wrong with flying Scoot.