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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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North Pacific air route development: Part 2 - US airlines’ risk aversion and Canada's restrictionism
In Part 1 of this report, we reviewed the higher than average traffic growth on the North Pacific over the past five years and the factors behind Asian airlines' route development.
In Part 2 we examine the aeropolitical environment on the Pacific and US airlines’ trans-Pacific roles. Canada's conservative policy is a constraint on Asian airline connections - and on potential air services to Latin America via Vancouver. Meanwhile, China's reluctance to move to open skies with the US limits American carriers' expansion plans.
The resurgence of US airline expansion is made possible not only by the prospect of market growth but also by their reincarnation as lower cost operations following bankruptcy and their subsequent mergers.
The definition of insanity is repeating the same action but expecting a different result. This is where Asia’s airlines partially find themselves about air freight, one unifying – albeit pessimistic – theme across the region. The freighter fleet at Asia’s major airlines is largely unchanged at 135 aircraft, down from 2012’s peak of 148 aircraft but up from the 133 in 2006. Korean Air, China Eastern and Cathay Pacific have made the largest net additions while EVA Air and Singapore Airlines are alone in making net decreases.
Some airlines have made changes to beat the odds on insanity. Older and inefficient aircraft like the MD-11 and 747-400 BCF have been replaced by newer models such as the 747-8F and 777-200F. Although welcome, these efforts alone cannot sustain the industry. The sheer aircraft numbers mask lowered productivity, generally weakened load factors and yields, competition from outside the region and growing bellyhold capacity. Of eight airlines studied, four had lower freight capacity in 2013 than 2012.
The planned Feb-2016 delivery of Cathay Pacific’s first A350 XWB will allow it to fulfill the strategic objectives of having the latest premium product, long-haul growth and fleet efficiency. Cathay’s first new aircraft type in nearly a decade and first new aircraft family in two decades will arrive with a refreshed business class product that will be retrofitted across the long-haul fleet, reflecting how important it is during a more competitive environment for Cathay to have the latest premium product, even with relatively minor adjustments.
Another response to competition, and fulfilling demand, is long-haul growth that ensures superior network scale. A350-900s will open European destinations while -1000s will do so in North America. The aircraft also bring efficiency, which Cathay is missing as it continues to operate A340s and 747s. The A350s will arrive with an enhanced premium economy seat while the cabin will be scaled back on A330s in Australia, the Middle East and India, evidencing a false-start for a product that has otherwise found success on long-haul and ultra-long-haul flights to Europe and North America.
Singapore Airlines SWOT: challenges continue as competition intensifies as shown by 1QFY2015 results
Singapore Airlines (SIA's) profits have dropped steadily over the last several years, driven by intensifying competition and challenging market conditions. Profits were again down in the quarter ending 30-Jun-2014 (1QFY2015), with the group recording a 52% drop in operating profits to SGD39 million (USD31 million).
But SIA remains one of the most respected airlines in the world and has never incurred an annual loss in its 42 year history. There is no denying SIA has faced in recent years - and continues to face - its biggest ever challenges. But SIA has made several strategic adjustments since Goh Choon Phong took over as CEO at the beginning of 2011.
SIA’s glory years of industry leading double digit profit margins are unlikely to return but once its new strategy beds down the group should be better positioned for long-term profitability and growth. SIA still has several core strengths and plenty of opportunities. But more challenges also lie ahead and all of its recent strategic adjustments come with risks. In this SWOT analysis we incorporate SIA's 1QFY2015 reporting.
Singapore-based LCC group Tigerair continues to struggle, incurring a net loss of SGD65 million (USD52 million) for the quarter ending 30-Jun-2014 (1QFY2015). Tigerair Singapore was in the red for the fourth consecutive quarter and losses continued to mount at Tigerair Australia and its now shuttered Indonesian joint venture, Tigerair Mandala.
The Tigerair Group is in the process of implementing a new strategy aimed at improving profitability by driving more transit traffic at its Singapore hub, relying more on overseas sales and forging and deepening partnerships. Meanwhile the group will maintain capacity levels in Singapore, its only remaining Southeast Asian operation, as part of an effort to boost load factors and eventually yields in a challenging marketplace that is suffering from overcapacity.
The new strategy is necessary and could improve Tigerair’s long-term outlook. But for at least the short term Tigerair’s turnaround efforts face huge obstacles, including unfavourable market conditions and challenges finding new homes for its surplus aircraft.
A confluence of factors is seeing Chinese short-haul tourists avoid Southeast Asia and instead favour Northeast Asia. Arrival figures at Southeast Asia's three key markets for Chinese tourists – Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand – are reporting fewer Chinese tourists than in 2013 while North Asian markets are reporting growth, often above 2013's growth. Consequently Southeast Asian airlines are suffering weakened yields and low load factors.
The political situation in Thailand is impacting arrival figures there while Malaysia has seen a sharp downturn due to the MH370 incident, with many Chinese believing conspiracy theories while others are avoiding Malaysia in a de facto protest. The cumulative impact is a 20% decline in Apr-2014 arrivals, the latest available.
Singapore has been caught up in this anti-Southeast Asia feeling, experiencing a 39% decline in Apr-2014 and 17% for the year so far – an even larger decline than in Malaysia. Vietnam-China tensions flared in May-2014, but Jun-2014 arrival figures still show 6% growth in Chinese tourists, although this is well down from the 43% growth in the year to May-2014.