Singapore Airlines continues to experience the full brunt of the global travel downturn. The airline’s April 2021 operating results reveal the airline has clawed back ground from its 2020 nadir but continues to substantially underperform compared to 2019.
Numbers show a slow improvement at Singapore Airlines
In April this year, Singapore Airlines carried 95,900 passengers. This compares favorably with the 9,700 passengers carried in April 2020 but falls substantially short of the 1,784,600 passengers carried in April 2019.
Lacking a domestic network to fall back on, Singapore Airlines has been ravaged by the travel downturn and constantly changing border restrictions. Over one-third of the airline’s 147 aircraft remain grounded. Singapore’s global network remains seriously curtailed as with scaled back schedules and flights to many regular destinations suspended or abandoned. Singapore Airlines now flies to just 49 destinations.
“Despite growing optimism due to the increased pace of vaccinations around the world, border controls and travel restrictions remained largely in place following new waves of COVID-19 infections and the emergence of more virulent strains of the virus,” says a statement from Singapore Airlines.
In April 2021, Singapore Airlines’ network-wide available seat kilometers totaled 3,398,300. This is far better than the 468,300 available seat kilometers in April 2020 but a decrease of 67.3% on the 10,396,100 available seat miles in April 2019.
Load factors this April (14.4%) were also better than the April 2020 average loads of 9.5% but were a fraction of the 83.5% average loads Singapore Airlines enjoyed in April 2019.
With a return to normal international flying conditions off the agenda for some time, Singapore Airlines is pinning its short-term hopes on travel bubbles. But these bubbles are proving hard to shape and very easy to pop.
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Popped travel bubble a blow for Singapore Airlines
A second attempt at a travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong, slated to kick off later this month, was deferred this week after a spike in cases in Singapore. A previous attempt to operate a travel bubble between the two countries in late 2020 also floundered.
Before the travel downturn, Singapore Airlines operated up to nine daily return flights to Hong Kong. OAG data reveals 3.8 million seats were available on the route over 2019. Singapore Airlines provided 39.4% of those seats. Over 2019, approximately 2.9 million passengers flew the sector between Singapore and Hong Kong. Some 70% of those 2.9 million passengers resided in either Hong Kong or Singapore. It’s that 70% (or 2.03 million people) the now popped travel bubble would have targeted.
Meanwhile, other travel bubbles the Singaporean Government is reportedly pursuing seem to make little progress. Singapore is eyeing travel bubbles with countries like Brunei, Vietnam, Australia, and New Zealand. While travel bubbles with any of these countries would provide a handy short-term boost for Singapore Airlines, none of these countries appear to be in a rush to sign an agreement with the Singaporean Government.
Singapore Airlines is attempting to make the best of a bad situation. The airline notes its April 2021 passenger traffic is a ten-fold improvement on 12 months ago. Concurrent with that increase was a “calibrated increase” in passenger capacity. That has resulted in passenger capacity at Singapore Airlines now running at around 24% of pre-downturn levels. Singapore Airlines also notes it is well-positioned to ride out the downturn and remains optimistic about its future.