SIA downsizes London route

31 Jul 2013 by Alex McWhirter

In June last year an excited Singapore Airlines announced that, after a 14-year wait, it had secured slots for a fourth daily service from London Heathrow (see online news, June 2012).

Ever since SIA first flew to the UK in the early 1970s, London has always been its number one European destination and its flights are always popular.

So the intention, in future, would be that the carrier's fourth daily flight - operated by a B777-300ER - would, like the other three services, be upgraded to the A380.

But one year on and flight displays on show that, from October 27, SIA will actually be providing fewer London route seats.

It is surprising because the Northern European winter is when many people escape for the warmth of SE Asia and Australasia.

SIA's history in the UK is one of continual growth. To the best of my knowledge, it's never had to downsize.

Last winter, SIA operated the route with three A380 flights and one B777-300ER service. This coming winter sees the route "downgraded" to twice daily flights by A380 and a twice daily service by B777-300ERs.

Why the cutbacks? Well, it must be partly to do with the European economic situation and partly because of the intense competition that non-stop Asian carriers face from their Gulf rivals.

A good proportion of SIA passengers departing London are not destined for Singapore alone. Instead, they are continuing to destinations in SE Asia and Australasia. And these are all areas being targeted by the big three - Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

Not only do the Gulf carriers offer keen fares, but they operate out of many more airports in Europe than does SIA.

Jakarta is also a prime destination for SIA's UK passengers. But Emirates is flying there three times a day and Qatar will soon be doubling flights to twice daily, and that's before the expected direct flights from London start (see online news, July 30).

SIA is renowned for good housekeeping. It does not like flying with empty seats so it is understandable that it would wish to downsize.

The Singapore flag-carrier remains one of the world's best and most successful airlines, but it proves, I believe, that outstanding onboard service is no longer enough in today's price-conscious market.

According to Sydney-based consultancy CAPA, the carrier faces a bleak outlook in the short-to-medium term owing to competitive pressures within Asia and further afield.

Alex McWhirter

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