Singapore Airlines and Australia: Speaking the Simple Truth

A response from Mr Michael Tan to our suggestions in “Singapore Airlines to enter the Australian market? Testing the waters”, on 19-Jan-09, following his published article.

I was disturbed to read Mr. Peter Harbison’s comment to my letter published in The Sydney Morning Herald last Saturday on Singapore Airlines’ Trans-Pacific quest.

Following my retirement as a Senior Executive Vice President in Singapore Airlines in 2004, I joined an international hotel chain as an Executive Vice President. I have since left the industry. However, I follow with much interest the aviation and tourism development and I remain passionate about airline competition and the customer.

Recently, when I learned of the Australian Government’s decision to once again turn down Singapore Airlines’ request to fly through Australia to USA, I felt it was time for someone with the relevant background knowledge to present a comprehensive analysis and comment. I was addressing the public at large (and not the travel industry experts) who may not be familiar with the issues at play.

Peter conveniently brushed this off and instead, jumped on what was only a supporting piece in my letter, that is, to assess the merit of forming a new Australian international airline.

Peter’s conjecture about my intention was totally incorrect, that ”I would have first consulted my old colleagues and perhaps, the major shareholders before publicly uttering such an idea.”

To my amazement, he went on to extrapolate that there was something sinister about my suggestion.

I can assure Peter and others that nobody, not me or anyone, is putting up a “trial balloon” of a new Australian international airline. The simple truth is that I was expressing my personal views in good faith and nothing else.

Australia is a large and growing aviation and tourism market in the Asia Pacific region.

My view is that given the right economic conditions, there is potential for a truly second international airline based in Australia, serving destinations as far as USA and South Africa to the high growth markets in Asia, like Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Singapore/South East Asia and India. The competition on many of these routes is muted by comparison and travellers are left with limited choice and benefit. Under these circumstances, market development is stunted and the airlines concerned, may be lulled into complacency. Obviously, the idea requires further probe.

I have since talked with Peter whom I have known for several years about the content of his letter. He is apologetic for what had happened.

MICHAEL TAN - 21 January, 2009


As Michael says, I have apologised to him unequivocally for our misreading of his article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17-Jan-09 in our report, 'Singapore Airlines to enter the Australian market? Testing the waters'. We got the wrong end of the stick with this one and recognise that the article was not a Singapore Airlines’ lead-in, but very much the product of Michael’s personal views and his passion for the industry. This applies also to his stated belief – which we also share – that Singapore Airlines would have no trouble finding investors were it to seek to establish in Australia
Peter Harbison, 22-Jan-09

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