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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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Tigerair Singapore prepares to resume expansion in late 2017 and 2018; feeding Scoot will be crucial
Singapore Airlines (SIA) short haul LCC subsidiary Tigerair is planning to resume expansion in 2H2017, ending a three-year hiatus from growth. The resumption of fleet and capacity expansion is made possible by the completion of a turnaround effort.
Tigerair Singapore is now back in the black after more than two years of losses driven by overcapacity. Market conditions in Singapore have improved, and a virtual merger with Scoot is starting to open up new opportunities for expansion since Scoot needs Tigerair to feed its fast-growing medium/long haul operation.
Tigerair currently operates 23 A320 family aircraft, having reduced its fleet from a high of 27 aircraft in 2014. The LCC is now planning to add six A320s in 2017 and 2018, resulting in a new all-time high of 29 aircraft. Tigerair, which became 100% SIA owned in early 2016, also has 39 A320neos on order that will be used for a combination of fleet renewal and growth over the next decade.
Long haul LCCs in ascendance: Scoot prepares to fly to Europe in 2017, the world’s longest LCC route
For those who doubted the reality of long haul LCC operations, the evidence is mounting that the future of long haul is changing. There are now 11 LCCs operating scheduled routes longer than 7,000km - and more are on the way, accelerated by the arrival of new 787s and A350s. Significantly too, five are subsidiaries or part of full service airline groups.
Singapore Airlines' (SIA) medium/long haul low cost airline subsidiary Scoot is now preparing to launch services to Europe in 2Q2017. Scoot will likely become the first LCC with flights over 10,000km long since Malaysia’s AirAsia X suspended services to Europe in 2012 (although AirAsia X is talking of resuming Europe service too).
Europe will be Scoot’s focus for the next phase of its expansion as it takes delivery of four 787-8s equipped with crew bunks. Scoot now operates 11 787s and plans to take one additional aircraft in 2016 in the standard configuration, completing its current phase of rapid expansion that features eight new medium haul destinations in just under one year.
In an interview with Bloomberg on 15-Jun-2016, Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger said that the airline was open to "accords" that would complement the North Atlantic joint venture with its 49% shareholder Delta. These would be "most likely focused on Asia and other eastbound markets" where Virgin reduced its exposure after the Delta deal.
Although 'Asia and other eastbound markets' are both the world's largest and fastest-growing aviation markets, Virgin has reduced its exposure to Asia Pacific and Middle East since Delta acquired a 49% stake in the UK airline in 2012 and subsequently formed its North Atlantic JV in 2013. Virgin withdrew from Mumbai and Tokyo Narita in 2015, after dropping its Australia route in May-2014.
Mr Kreeger also said that Virgin was looking at adding to its existing seven codeshare partners, which are Air China, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Delta, Flybe, Jet Airways and Singapore Airlines. This report considers which airlines in "Asia and other eastbound markets" might make attractive partners for Virgin Atlantic, whether through new JVs or codeshares. Mr Kreeger may be open to JVs in the region, but he will first need to increase Virgin's very small online presence in Asia. Imminent new deals seem unlikely. In reviewing likely attractive enhanced relationships, Delta's interests will form one ingredient, but Virgin Atlantic remains an airline in its own right.
Airline groups are now common, if not ubiquitous in Asia today. Their evolution, still often at experimental stage, involves addressing issues like multiple brand management, connectivity, coordination and associated issues. They are not easy to manage, but appear to be generating some success as established full service airlines adapt to new marketplace conditions.
Part 1 of this analysis of northeast Asian airline groups, with their "houses of brands", covered Mainland China and Hong Kong.
Part 2 reviews the courses being followed by airlines in Taiwan, Japan and Korea. Each of these markets has its own characteristics, influenced by domestic features, by government peculiarities - notably in Japan - and by the beliefs of the airline managements themselves.
Most Asian full service airlines have responded to LCC competition by establishing groups, in some ways similar to Europe's, but usually with greater differentiation in role and establishment. As a result they have for some time been houses of brands. There was typically limited consolidation in these sprawling mansions; there was also little coordination between the airlines in the group. This has led to redundancy, missed opportunities and confusing marketing. But the Asian market is dynamic, competitive pressures are increasing and constant adaptation is necessary. With experience now of these conditions more strategic thinking is emerging, along with the management resolve to shed complacency.
Brand consolidation is still some time off. Taiwan’s EVA Air and China Airlines are mulling consolidation with their respective regional arms UNI Air and Mandarin Airlines. But on the whole, the number of brands in Asia is growing, especially in mainland China. The initial changes at Asian airline groups include better coordination of group airlines.
Singapore Airlines is reintroducing capacity into the US market in Oct-2016 as it launches a daily nonstop service to San Francisco. The new flight is strategically important because it enables SIA to accelerate the resumption of nonstop flights to the US by two years and compete more effectively against United, which launched nonstop flights on the Singapore-San Francisco route at the beginning of Jun-2016.
The new Singapore-San Francisco nonstop flight will increase SIA’s US operation from 40 to 47 weekly frequencies. However, its total capacity to the US will increase a relatively modest 9% as SIA is also downgauging seven frequencies from A380s to 777-300ERs.
The 9% increase only partially offsets a significant earlier reduction in capacity to the US. SIA reduced capacity to the US by 19% in late 2013 and by a further 5% in 2015. As a result, SIA’s US capacity in Nov-2016 will still be down 12% compared with the situation just over three years ago. Most of its main Asian competitors have significantly increased US capacity during this period.