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Based at Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore Airlines is the national carrier of Singapore. Using a fleet of wide-body Boeing and Airbus aircraft, including the A380 of which Singapore Airlines was the launch customer, Singapore Airlines operates an extensive network across Asia, North America, Australasia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Singapore Airlines joined the Star Alliance on 01-Apr-2000.
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2,121 total articles
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Northeast Asia's combination passenger-freight airlines are re-fleeting their main deck cargo operations. EVA Air is the latest, announcing at the Paris Air Show its intent to acquire five 777Fs. The 777F has also been used to re-fleet the cargo units affiliated mainland China's big three airlines: Air China, China Eastern and China Southern. The largest in-service 777F fleet in the world is with China Southern, with 10. Korean Air has taken 777Fs in addition to 747-8Fs, which only Cathay in Asia has been the other combination airline to use. There are no known re-fleeting plans from Asiana and China Airlines.
The airlines that have re-fleeted have been optimistic about acquisition costs being offset by operating efficiencies.
Southeast Asia has a different outlook. Thai Airways has exited the main deck freight business and Malaysia Airlines may do the same, although both were small players. Singapore Airlines Cargo is the largest in Southeast Asia but with only eight in-service 747Fs and no plans to re-fleet. As with the passenger business, Southeast Asian carriers are disadvantaged in serving North America, the main freight route for Northeast Asian carriers. To Europe there is large competition, including from Gulf carriers.
The much-celebrated growth of Chinese tourism is not occurring evenly. An additional 3.8 million Chinese visitors travelled to core Northeast and Southeast Asia in 2014 compared to 2013, representing 19% growth. But this growth was concentrated exclusively in Northeast Asia while Southeast Asia actually contracted. This excludes Thailand, which is earning its "Teflon Thailand" reputation: after flat performance over much of 2014 due to political uncertainty, Chinese visitors have sprung back up to all time highs. Its neighbouring countries are far less fortunate. It is little wonder Korea, Thailand and Japan are the largest growth markets for Chinese airlines.
Despite weakness in Southeast Asia, foreign airlines are typically not planning to further reduce capacity. As one example, Singapore Airlines instead plans to link outbound China traffic with other markets, such as Australia.
Rapid growth within Northeast Asia now means that Chinese visitors have come to define tourism profiles: they accounted for 18% of all visitors to Japan in 2014, 43% to Korea and 40% to Taiwan. Such high shares become contentious locally – and risks that countries and airlines need to carefully manage.
Locally in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific has been in a rotating series of staff disputes with threats of work stoppages. But elsewhere in Asia competitor airlines have cast a worrying glow over Cathay and its long-haul growth. Cathay in Apr-2015 received its 50th 777-300ER; this in contrast to its previous long-haul workhorse, the 747-400, which numbered only 24 at its peak fleet size.
Cathay is the only Asian airline to have a significant presence in all three of Asia’s core long-haul markets: Australia, Europe and North America. Europe and North America will receive further growth as A350s arrive, while Australia expansion hinges on gaining added traffic rights. Cathay’s geography in the middle of Asia gives it cross-regional reach lacking at competitors, which are often smaller than Cathay.
A likely outcome of these dynamics is the evolution of deep partnerships between Northeast and Southeast Asian airlines. As they further consider endgame scenarios, consolidation becomes a possible future direction. Mergers will not be as integrated as in Europe, let alone North America, but the pressure for some forms of closer relationships is growing. One possible example could be a pairing of All Nippon Airways and Singapore Airlines.
Singapore Airlines Group has reported improved profits for the quarter and year ending 31-Mar-2015 (FY2015) driven by a recovery in yields. The SIA mainline operation, full-service regional subsidiary SilkAir and SIA Cargo all recorded improvements in their operating performance for FY2015, although SIA Cargo remained in the red.
The SIA Group should be able to boost profitability further in FY2016 driven partially by fuel cost reductions. But market conditions remain relatively challenging and profits are unlikely to return to pre global financial crisis levels.
Mainline capacity will again be flat in FY2016 and there should be an opportunity to boost yields further at the parent airline as premium economy is introduced. But the group is accelerating capacity expansion at SilkAir and long-haul LCC subsidiary Scoot, which could put pressure on yields and load factors in some markets.
Qatar Airways is pursuing rapid expansion in the Singapore market as Singapore Changi becomes only the third airport in the world with A350 service. Qatar introduced A350 service on Doha-Singapore on 11-May-2015 and will be deploying three of its initial fleet of five A350s on the route by Aug-2015.
Qatar is also introducing a third daily flight to Singapore. The combination of the new third daily frequency and up-gauging the existing two flights from 787-8s to A350-900s will result in a 67% increase in seat capacity for Qatar in the highly competitive Singapore market.
Premium seat capacity will increase by 145% as Qatar seeks to raise its share of the Singapore corporate market. The additional capacity will enable Qatar to continue increasing its share of the Singapore-Europe market but also become a significant player in the Singapore-North America market as the new third daily flight improves connection times from North America.
Scoot plans Kaohsiung-Osaka & Bangkok-Sapporo as long-haul LCCs focus on fifth freedom opportunities
Singapore Airlines long-haul low-cost subsidiary Scoot is planning to launch two fifth freedom routes as it expands capacity for the fist time in over 18 months. The new Singapore-Kaohsiung-Osaka and Singapore-Bangkok-Sapporo routes complement existing services from Taipei to Tokyo and Seoul and will lift Scoot’s share of capacity allocated to fifth freedom sectors to over 20%.
More fifth freedom flights for Scoot are likely, particularly from Bangkok due to the new restrictions blocking expansion to Japan and South Korea placed on its Thailand-based sister carrier NokScoot. Asia’s leading long-haul LCC, AirAsia X, is also planning to launch its first fifth freedom sector, Osaka-Honolulu, and is looking at other similar opportunities including from India to Europe.
Fifth freedom sectors are attractive as they often provide less competitive and higher yielding options than pursuing new routes from home markets. Allocating capacity to other markets is a good option for Scoot and AirAsia X as the Singapore and Malaysia markets have become relatively saturated.