On June 25, 2017, as Flight SQ860 has reached maximum altitude, I decided to switch SIM cards in my mobile phone as I normally do when I travel. As my seat was next to the window on the upper deck of the A380, I had extra “counter” space thanks to the cover of the side storage compartments.
As I was fiddling with my phone, pin, and SIM card, my clumsy self somehow lost grip of the tiny nano SIM card. And of all the places it could’ve fallen onto, it decided to dive down the tiny gap between the storage compartment and the side of the Business Class seat, where the armrest is. I looked down and could see the card resting peacefully on the carpet below. The only way to get it out was to patiently slide it forward beyond the armrest.
My first thought was to use the inflight magazine or safety procedure card. However, both were too short. I tried using my charging cable and my earphones, which had enough reach, but neither were rigid enough to manoeuvre. Then, I asked a cabin crew member if there was anything long and thin I could use in that situation. She was sincerely concerned and left to seek assistance from the rest of her team.
That’s when Chief Steward Foo Wen Huee introduced himself to assess the situation. After scouring the plane, he could not find any tool that could be used for retrieval. But that only motivated him further. He disappeared and later came back with a creative McGyver-style hack: two ice prongs straightened and taped together (main photo). I felt guilty that two prongs had to be sacrificed, but Mr Foo insisted on trying to use this DIY tool himself.
That was the start of multiple attempts – and in his full uniform too. I pleaded with him to let me try. After all, it was my own fault and I had time to spare and Mr Foo could take a break. He gave me the impression that he would’ve been just as dedicated even if the flight was completely full.
It wasn’t a simple rescue mission because of a recessed groove at the bottom of the storage compartment. As I dragged the card to the right, it ended up tucked inside that groove. To make matters worse, I may have pushed it underneath the carpeting.
Although easily replaceable by the telco, this SIM card mattered so much to me as it was my Singapore prepaid card. On leaving Singapore, I depend on this card for my one-time PIN code (OTP) via SMS from my banks, government agencies, etc. Getting a card replacement would require me to travel back to Singapore, and my next trip wasn’t until October.
When we were about to prepare for landing, I had given up hopes of retrieving the card. However, Mr Foo had one more trick up his sleeves: he contacted the ground staff to come onto the plane immediately upon reaching the gate. If this isn’t service, I don’t know what is. As I was waiting for my baggage, he sent me photos via WhatsApp of the engineers who literally dismantled parts of the seat (above) – all this for a measly SIM card. To the crew and staff, it wasn’t the object at hand but the objective.
I don’t know how else to thank everyone: the cabin crew, ground staff, and especially Mr Foo for his high level of professionalism, service, and dedication.
It was the second and last leg of my business trip from London to Hong Kong. Despite a shorter, more convenient direct flight on another airline, I specifically booked Singapore Airlines, even with the stopover in Singapore in both directions.
Is this brand loyalty? Sure. And yes, there are many superficial reasons for my decision: better seats, better food and beverages, better inflight entertainment, better ground and inflight service (especially when it comes travelling with my 16-month-old daughter), better lounges, KrisFlyer miles, and more. To top it off, despite being an industry leader, the ticket on Singapore Airlines was cheaper than others.
That said, even without Mr Foo’s display of commitment in this episode, I would still choose Singapore Airlines in a heartbeat. I have flown with the Airline for many years, even before I was old enough to become a KrisFlyer member. To Mr Foo and all the other employees, it was just another day on their jobs. To me, even though the SIM card was never found, it remains a lifelong memory that reaffirms my loyalty to this airline.
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This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.