SIA plans to use smaller aircraft for Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble

SIA plans to use smaller aircraft for Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble

Technicians check on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 plane
Technicians check on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 plane at Singapore Changi Airport on Oct 24, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: Singapore Airlines (SIA) will be deploying its smaller aircraft for the upcoming air travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong given expectations for “some level of conservatism” from the authorities, its executive vice-president of commercial Lee Lik Hsin said on Monday (Nov 9).

Mr Lee was responding to a question raised during a virtual results briefing on whether the national carrier could be using the Airbus A380 for the two-way air travel bubble.

“We are obviously very keen to make the bubble a success but of course, we do have to take into account the various considerations that the Government … will have in approving such a bubble and being experimental, we can expect some level of conservatism.”

He added: “So the ability to put our biggest passenger aircraft onto that bubble route, I think you can be sure that that will not be the case. We'll be using one of our smaller aircraft.”

Last month, Singapore and Hong Kong agreed in-principle to establish a bilateral air travel bubble, in a bid to revive air travel between the two aviation hubs in a safe manner amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ: COVID-19: Singapore, Hong Kong reach in-principle agreement to establish bilateral air travel bubble

This will be a different travel arrangement from reciprocal green lanes or fast lanes that are meant only for official and essential business travel.

Covering all travel purposes, those moving under the air travel bubble will not need to have a controlled itinerary. They will also not be subjected to quarantine or stay-home notice requirements. Anyone who has stayed 14 days in either Singapore or Hong Kong will be eligible to make the journey. 

The start date of the air travel bubble remains unknown, but Singapore’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung had said on Oct 15 he hopes the new initiative could kick start in “weeks”.

READ: Singapore-Hong Kong air travel bubble will be suspended if COVID-19 cases spike: Ong Ye Kung

Also speaking at the virtual results briefing, SIA’s chief executive officer Goh Choon Phong said: “I think everybody will agree that Singapore is probably among the most proactive nations in the world when it comes to looking at ways to open up and reduce travel restrictions in a safe manner for our customers.”

With the air travel bubble paving the way for general travel, it will serve as “a very good pilot example of how we can actually open up travel in a safe manner for everyone”, he added. 

Also noting that these travel arrangements are supported by advances in COVID-19 testing regimes, Mr Goh said: “We believe that the continual investment in all these tests schemes, as well as test approaches, would further ease travel going forward.”

Hit by the pandemic, SIA Group announced last Friday after the market close a record net loss of S$3.47 billion for the first half of FY2021. It bled S$2.34 billion alone in the second quarter – doubling from the first quarter and marking its biggest ever quarterly loss.

The losses came as the group suffered from a nosedive in passenger numbers due to the pandemic and impairments charges on older aircraft.

READ: SIA Group reports first half net loss of S$3.5 billion as passenger numbers fall by 98.9% amid COVID-19

It has, however, seen strong cargo demand from areas like pharmaceuticals, perishables, and e-commerce sale days. 

SIA has taken “proactive steps” to capitalise on this demand by removing seats in some of its passenger aircraft in order to transport more cargo, said Mr Goh.

“As a consequence of all these (travel) schemes that have been introduced, as well as a strong demand for cargo, we are seeing increasing demand for the flights and therefore our ability to step up on our capacity,” said the CEO. 

“We project currently that our capacity will reach about 16 per cent of pre-COVID by the end of year in December,” he added.

“We will continue to be very nimble and flexible to see … what other opportunities the market may bring or for that matter, any adverse environment that the market could have in the future and adjust our capacity in a nimble and flexible manner, up or down,” said Mr Goh.

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Source: CNA/sk(ta)

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