SINGAPORE: Low-cost carrier Scoot is stretching its wings with the addition of five new destinations, which includes four new short to mid-haul routes and a long-haul route.
These destinations are Harbin, Kuantan, Kuching, Palembang and Honolulu, it announced at an event on Tuesday (Jul 25) to mark the completion of its merger with sister airline Tigerair under a single operating license and the Scoot brand.
The long-haul flight to Honolulu – Scoot’s first stop in the United States – will be the budget airline’s second long-haul destination after Athens. Coupled with the addition of Tigerair's network, the five new services will bring Scoot's total destination count to 65 across 18 countries.
Chief executive Lee Lik Hsin said the airline is hoping for its first flight to Hawaii to take place before the end of the year though much will depend on ongoing discussions with local regulators and authorities.
For the four Asian destinations, Scoot will offer flights to China’s Harbin, Malaysia’s Kuching and Indonesia’s Palembang by the end of 2017, while flights out to Kuantan will be launched by the first half of 2018, according to chief commercial officer Leslie Thng.
When asked why the company decided to add Honolulu to its network, Mr Lee cited the presence of a "big gap in the market" with the lack of flight services to Hawaii from Asia.
He added that Scoot is eyeing other destinations within Europe and is also "carefully considering" other parts of the United States, as part of its target to operate at least three to four long-haul routes within the next two to three years.
But even as Scoot sets its sights beyond the region, Asia will remain its predominant focus, said Mr Lee. "We have showed that we are clearly serious about long-haul, starting with flights to Europe and now to the US. These will continue to expand but the bulk of the resources will still be on Asia."
In terms of its fleet size, the low-cost carrier remains on a "fairly aggressive growth path", said Mr Lee. Within the next five years, Scoot intends to double the number of its planes, with the "proportion skewed to the narrow-bodied A320".
Scoot also showcased the first A320 aircraft featuring its new livery, alongside a new look for its cabin crews on Tuesday.
Some changes to the uniforms include an asymmetrical dress design and higher waistline for female crew members, as well as sharper angles for the yellow highlights on the polo shirts of the male crew members. Both uniforms will also be made with thicker fabric.
The budget carrier will also have a new tagline "Escape the ordinary" to reflect an "evolving Scoot" with a bigger consumer base and an expanded network, Mr Lee said at the event.
The integration process between Scoot and Tigerair began last May when the two airlines were placed under a common holding company, Budget Aviation Holdings. The integration encompassed flight scheduling and connections, as well as touchpoint integration for guests including a common contact centre and check-in counters, which have since been completed.
Following the merger, Scoot’s flight designator code will be changed from TZ to TR.
In a separate announcement, Silkair, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines (SIA), will be transferring two of its services to Scoot. Silkair flights to Kuching in Malaysia and Palembang in Indonesia will be operated by Scoot starting Oct 29 and Nov 23, respectively.
Currently, Silkair flies four times weekly to Kuching and thrice weekly to Palembang.
This move aims to "further optimise the SIA Group's resources and present a better match of capacity to demand," said Silkair's CEO Mr Foo Chai Woo.
Scoot will aim to start sales of its Kuching and Palembang services in August and October, respectively, depending on regulatory approval. According to Mr Lee, the addition of Kuching and Palembang to Scoot's network will "complement our robust Southeast Asia network".
"Malaysia and Indonesia are important markets to Scoot and we are glad to be able to expand our footprint in these countries," he added.
This will bring Scoot's destination count in Malaysia to six, and to four in Indonesia.