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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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The A380 is once again under media scrutiny, despite there being no major movement on the type. Comments from Air France and Qantas about not taking further A380s have long been assumed, and it has been apparent that Malaysia Airlines does not even have the need for its A380s. Singapore Airlines not renewing the lease on its first A380 is hardly surprising, and offers no definitive conclusion about the A380 or second-hand market; early A380s had different production and are not as efficient as later models. The lack of movement on the A380neo continues to irk the model's largest customer by far, Emirates, and may not make for a productive relationship as Emirates weighs an A350 or 787 order.
For most, the A380 continues to fly. How and where it flies is changing. Flights to and from the Middle East are becoming more common as Gulf airlines, and mostly Emirates, take delivery of A380s. A further shift to the Middle East is inevitable. In Japan there has been a near exodus of A380s; airlines dropping the type as they moved from Narita to Haneda, which cannot accommodate the A380 during the day, and Singapore Airlines down-gauging. Intra-Asia flying is decreasing – notable given the growth of A380s based in the region. Services by the A380 to Australia are growing, perhaps as it becomes an easy market for airlines to redeploy capacity amid European security concerns and trans-Pacific overcapacity.
The deployment of new generation ultra-long-range widebody aircraft is prompting several airlines to plan new nonstop services between Southeast Asia and the continental US. New variants of the A350 have particularly emerged as a new, more efficient and popular option for Southeast Asia-US flights, with orders over the past year from three Southeast Asian flag carriers.
On 5-Sep-2016 Vietnam Airlines became the latest Southeast Asian airline to commit to new generation ultra-long-range aircraft capable of new nonstop routes – joining Philippine Airlines and Singapore Airlines. Garuda Indonesia and Thai Airways are likely to follow, resulting in four Southeast Asian airlines operating nonstop flights to the US by early next decade, compared with only one currently.
Delta Air Lines may also join United Airlines with nonstop Southeast Asia-US services. There are opportunities in the Southeast Asia-US market for nonstop routes, but competition with one-stop products will be intense. Profitability will be heavily challenged or non-existent. SIA started the trend due to strategic, not financial, imperatives. Under the charm of low fuel prices, Southeast Asian airlines risk falling into the spell of "me too" nonstop flights, just as they did with over-sized aircraft acquisitions.
Asia aviation outlook: high demand, low fuel, but overcapacity and uncertainty (Brexit) hurt profits
Asian aviation should be experiencing boom times. So why isn't it? The region is unique for alignment of three key factors: low fuel, high demand and geopolitical stability. Yet financially the market is subdued, largely the result of overcapacity at most airlines. There are some special features too: Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines' benefit from low fuel prices has been muted by to hedging, currency swings have hurt the financials of Chinese and Korean airlines.
Strategically most airlines in Asia remain confident of long term opportunities but identify short term challenges, starting with overcapacity. The region's growth is above the IATA average, but financial performance is below. Airlines are watching Europe to see if demand has plateaued or will further weaken due to security concerns. Freight – especially important at Northeast Asian airlines – is facing its usual challenges. New consumer electronics – iPhone 7, for example – may deliver a short-term boost, but will not be as high or profitable as it used to be. The collapse of Hanjin container shipping might deliver some relief, but not on the scale of the 2015 US port closure.
The new Lufthansa Group and Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group joint venture open up opportunities for additional capacity from Singapore to Germany and Switzerland. Lufthansa is confident the improved connectivity beyond Singapore which comes with the JV will help support higher traffic and capacity levels while SIA will benefit from improved connectivity beyond its three German and Swiss gateways.
The two airline groups recently already added over 1,100 weekly one-way seats from Singapore to Germany and Switzerland, representing expansion of 8%, ahead of the formal start of the JV. The expansion included the launch of flights by SIA to Dusseldorf, a route that likely would not have been viable without the JV, and the up-gauging of flights to Singapore by Swiss from A340s to 777-300ERs.
Both airline groups are now considering further capacity increases as well as new routes. Lufthansa is looking at using its new A350 fleet to resume Singapore-Munich, which would supplement its daily Singapore-Frankfurt A380 service and give the group 21 weekly frequencies and nearly 8,000 weekly one-way seats under the JV compared to 31 frequencies and nearly 10,000 weekly seats for SIA.
Lufthansa Group is aiming to increase sales in Indonesia through a new codeshare with Singapore Airlines (SIA) and SilkAir, along with a new interline with Garuda Indonesia. Lufthansa suspended one-stop services from Frankfurt to Jakarta in late 2015, but should be able to serve the fast-growing Indonesian market better through partnerships.
Indonesia is one of eight markets covered under the new joint venture between Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines. However, Lufthansa does not want to rely entirely on the JV to cover Indonesia and has just implemented a new special prorate agreement with Garuda.
Indonesia is Lufthansa’s second largest offline market in Southeast Asia after Malaysia. Lufthansa is also using the new JV with SIA to cover Malaysia, as it dropped services to Kuala Lumpur in early 2016.
Lufthansa Group’s new joint venture with Singapore Airlines (SIA) will significantly improve Lufthansa’s position in the key offline markets of Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia. Lufthansa anticipates it will be able to implement the new JV in early 2017, to cover four markets in Asia Pacific along with four markets in Western Europe.
The JV should improve Lufthansa’s ability to compete against Gulf carriers. It should also help support additional nonstop capacity from Singapore to Germany and Switzerland.
This is Part 1 in a series of analysis reports on the Lufthansa-SIA JV. This part will focus on Australia, which is Lufthansa’s largest offline market in Asia Pacific. Subsequent parts will examine in more detail the Singapore market along with Indonesia and Malaysia, which are Lufthansa’s two largest offline markets in Southeast Asia.