Singapore Airlines eyes West-bound Indian passengers

Singapore Airlines hopes to lure the Indian flyers flying to the West —Europe and North America as the airline increases flights to North America.

Singapore Airlines expects more travellers from India will use its Changi airport hub to fly to the West, buoyed by double-digit jump in flights from Indian cities to the southeast Asian country over the last three years.

The airline increased its capacity to and from India by over 30% during the last five years, said David Lim, Singapore Airlines’ general manager for India.

He said, however, the expansion is mostly on flights to smaller cities, as seat entitlements between Singapore and major Indian cities, under a bilateral Air Service Agreement, haven’t been revised since 2013.

“Middle Eastern airlines like Emirates have three times more (seat) rights than us, so we are constrained,” Lim said.

“During the last three years, Singapore Airlines has seen a double-digit growth, over 10%, from its India operations,” he said. “The seat entitlement should be increased accordingly.”

Singapore Airlines can currently operate 6,000 seats per week from Delhi and Mumbai each. Overall, it can operate up to 28,600 seats. Indian airlines meanwhile have 29,300 seats allotted per week to Singapore. Lim said Singapore Airlines will continue to add capacity on flights to the smaller cities in India until it receives more seat allocations for the major cities.

Though many Indians flying to Singapore use it as a transit to other destinations such as Australia, Far East Asia, US and Europe. Several others also travel to Singapore round the year.

According to Singapore Tourism board, 1.27 million Indians visited the country in 2017. Singapore Airlines hopes to lure the Indian flyers flying to the West – Europe and North America as the airline increases flights to North America. The airline flies to North America non-stop and one-stop via Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and over the North Pole, depending on the time of the year.

The carrier currently has flights from major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Kochi and Amritsar. It’s no-frills subsidiary Scoot flies to cities such as Chennai, Amritsar, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Trichy and Lucknow.

Meanwhile, Silk Air, another Singapore Airline subsidiary, which will be merged with the parent airline in 2020, flies to and from cities such as Visakhapatnam, Coimbatore, Kochi, Trivandrum, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

The airline will meanwhile Boeing 777 with Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft on the Delhi-Singapore route from October as part of its plan to increase the total capacity between the two cities by about 10%.

“The load factor has been very good especially from and to Delhi. So, we are getting bigger planes,” Lim said.

The airline flies 17-times a week from Mumbai to Singapore, using the Airbus 380 and Airbus 350 on the route during the weekdays and a Boeing 777 during the weekend.

Today, a large number of Indians prefer to travel to the west, including Europe and North America, by middle-eastern carriers like Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways.

“By December-end Singapore Airlines will have 53-flights-a-week flying to the US. The new ultra long range aircraft A 350-900 ULR (ultra long range), which will be delivered to us in September, will be used on the Singapore US route,” Lim said.

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines will merge its subsidiary Silk Air brand with itself in 2020. After the merger, Singapore Airlines which only operates wide-body aircraft will also operate Silk Air’s narrow body fleet.

“Silk Air is transiting from Airbus 320 fleet to Boeing 737 (Max) fleet. Once the merger is completed, Silk Air’s Boeing 737 airplanes will be retro-fitted with a business class and in-flight entertainment system, which it currently lacks,” Lim said adding that Silk Air’s Airbus fleet may either be sold or returned to lessors or given to Scoot to operate.

“Eventually Silk Air will have a single fleet of Boeing aircraft and some of the Silk Air aircraft will be given to Scoot which has Airbus aircraft (A320),” Lim added.

Singapore Airlines’ plan is to convince the Indian flyers that are flying to Europe and US through middle-eastern destinations to fly through Singapore, said an airline executive with an Indian carrier who didn’t want to be named.

“The airline has good offerings in its premium economy and business class. But, Singapore Airlines can become a big player like its middle-eastern counterparts only if the seat entitlements between the Singapore and India are increased and the airline is able to increase the frequency of its bigger planes like the Airbus 380,” the executive added.

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