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Singapore Airlines (SIA) reported a slight drop in operating profits at the group and parent airline for the fiscal third quarter ending 31-Dec-2014. But SIA and regional full-service subsidiary SilkAir both remained in the black for the quarter and calendar 2014 despite challenging market conditions which drove losses at most of its peers in Southeast Asia.
SIA has outperformed its neighbours by maintaining a disciplined and rational approach to capacity. The parent airline has shrunk since 2008 and the upcoming introduction of premium economy product could result in a further reduction in seat capacity and passenger traffic.
But premium economy could also drive an improvement in yields and profitability at the parent airline after several years of declines. Group profitability should also improve as SIA’s two budget airline subsidiaries, which are driving most of the growth, turn the corner.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) and its regional subsidiary SilkAir remained profitable in the quarter and half ending 30-Sep-2014 despite extremely challenging market conditions in Southeast Asia. But the group’s net profit has been on the decline due primarily to the heavy losses at LCC affiliate Tigerair.
SIA is now in the process of increasing its stake in Tigerair which pending approvals will result in the LCC becoming a subsidiary. SIA is not considering taking over Tigerair entirely and instead will focus on pursuing synergies, particularly with its long-haul LCC subsidiary Scoot, while supporting Tigerair’s ongoing turnaround efforts.
SIA’s long-term outlook is relatively bright but several components of its strategy, including its investments in the LCC sector and its new full-service joint venture in India, will likely continue to have a negative impact on earnings for the short to medium term. The fact the SIA Group has so far been able to stay in the black overall is a noteworthy accomplishment.
Singapore Changi Airport and CAAS are trying to promote new long-haul flights and more transit traffic in response to a significant slowdown in passenger growth. Singapore is eager to drum up new sources of traffic or growth as it invests significantly in airport expansion which will prove to be overly ambitious if growth cannot be restored.
Incentivising transit traffic is logical as a growth in transit numbers, long a staple under Singapore’s hub strategy, could help offset a recent drop in inbound visitor numbers. Following Kuala Lumpur's example, Singapore will probably need to focus on enhancing LCC transit traffic, an increasingly important segment which Changi has barely scratched.
Long-haul transit traffic growth will be much harder to achieve, even with incentives. Changi’s biggest growth opportunities are likely on medium-haul routes and connections within Asia-Pacific.
SilkAir is joining Singapore’s main LCC groups in slowing down expansion in response to overcapacity in Singapore’s short-haul market. SilkAir capacity growth has been in the low single digits in recent months and will likely stay at modest levels as it accelerates the retirement of A320s.
The full service regional subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, SilkAir has expanded rapidly over the past several years despite intensifying competition with LCCs. SilkAir has doubled in size since 2007 and has consistently outperformed Singapore’s two short-haul LCCs, Tigerair and Jetstar Asia, in the process securing valuable slots at Changi Airport for the group.
SilkAir has been planning to maintain annual double digit capacity growth, driven by the introduction of new 737-800s. But a slowdown is sensible given the current overcapacity situation in the Singapore short-haul market, which has led to a steep drop in profits at SilkAir as well as at LCC competitors.
Singapore has seen traffic growth slow significantly over the last year driven by challenges in its previously booming short-haul market. Total passenger traffic at Singapore Changi grew by only 5% in 2013, ending a three-year run of double digit growth, and is on pace to grow by less than 2% in 2014.
Profitability in the Singapore market meanwhile has tumbled driven by losses at Singapore’s three LCCs – Tigerair Singapore, Jetstar Asia and Scoot. Singapore Airlines regional subsidiary SilkAir also has seen profits slide as it has been impacted by the overcapacity and intense competition in Singapore’s short-haul market.
Tigerair, Jetstar Asia and SilkAir have all responded by halting or slowing down expansion. Singapore’s LCC penetration rate has started to slip, ending a decade of steady gains.
Okinawa Naha Airport expects further rapid international growth as it begins to tap into the Southeast Asian market. Okinawa has seen a surge in international traffic, driven by new flights within North Asia, and is optimistic a new charter route to Singapore (operated by Jetstar Asia and SilkAir) will be upgraded to become its first scheduled service to Southeast Asia.
International passenger traffic at Okinawa Naha Airport has nearly tripled since 2011. A new international terminal which opened in Feb-2014 is already approaching capacity but plans are in the works for expansion.
For now the growth is being driven by inbound visitor traffic as Okinawa emerges as a popular tourist attraction. But Okinawa also has a potential role as a LCC transit airport, particularly after a second runway opens and further terminal expansion is pursued. Peach Aviation envisioned an Okinawa hub for Southeast Asian flights but requires a new low-cost terminal.