SIA well placed to cash in on recovery

money-glitz | Karen Ng 11 Oct 2021

Singapore Airlines is ramping up its Hong Kong services to 17 outbound passenger flights per week from next month.

The airline will increase daily services from Hong Kong to Singapore to 14 flights a week and resume three non-stop flights between Hong Kong and San Francisco every week. The additional daily flight will be in the evening.

The airline is in a very strong position to battle any post-pandemic headwinds, says Wilson Yong, SIA's new general manager for Hong Kong.

While its peers only operate flights in the single digits each week between Singapore and Hong Kong, SIA hopes to cater to the needs of passengers traveling to see their families, as well as those in transit and heading to Europe.

"We do not see Hong Kong's position as a major commercial and logistic hub being affected and we remain confident in the market," says Yong.

Nearly 70 years after its first flight to Hong Kong, SIA has been maintaining frequencies similar to pre-Covid levels between the two cities. It currently operates a daily passenger flight and four to five cargo flights, using passenger aircraft, to Singapore.

What's more, it has not laid off any staff in Hong Kong, despite axing about 2,400 jobs in Singapore and other overseas stations.

A recent Bloomberg survey showed that 84 percent of 45 large companies interviewed in the United States, Europe, and Asia plan to cut their budgets for business travel after Covid-19.

With the ease and efficiency of virtual conferencing, reductions between 20 percent and 40 percent in travel budgets are expected by a majority of the surveyed companies.

Spending on corporate trips could slide to as low as US$1.24 trillion (HK$9.67 trillion) by 2024 from a pre-pandemic peak in 2019 of US$1.43 trillion, according to the Global Business Travel Association.

But SIA is optimistic about post-pandemic business travel.

"From our interaction with many of our corporate customers, and from various studies, we have seen quite a fair number are Zoom-fatigued," says Yong, adding that most corporates consider employee safety of paramount importance.

SIA is widely regarded as a digital leader in the aviation industry, and to ensure people can travel in confidence, the airline got a head start by investing heavily after the pandemic broke to provide a contactless journey from check-in to arrival, he says.

The digital innovations extend to inflight entertainment as well: its SingaporeAir mobile app allows guests to select from a multimedia playlist in advance - which will be synced with the plane's inflight entertainment system - and use the app as the remote control.

Passengers can also enjoy over 150 publications offline via the app.

Digital tools will be a key and important enabler to ensure the simplest travel experience when international borders eventually open, says Yong.

In March, the company became the first airline to trial a digital health verification process based on the International Air Transport Association Travel Pass framework.

During the two-week trial, passengers on its flights from Singapore to London could use the Iata Travel Pass to create a secure digital version of their passport on their mobile device, input their flight details to learn of travel restrictions and requirements, and receive verified test results and a confirmation that they meet all travel requirements.

With US$16 billion raised by Singapore-owned Temasek Holdings - its biggest shareholder - since the start of the pandemic, SIA is prepared to seize the opportunity when market sees an upturn.

"We have raised sufficient capital that will put us in a very strong position to take advantage of the recovery," concludes Yong.

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November 2021

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