Despite a lot of talk, a two-way travel bubble between Australia and Singapore is yet to begin. While Singapore is open to Australians who possess a valid Air Travel Pass, Australia has not yet returned the favor. In addition, Australia has recently extended its ban on its citizens leaving the country until March. Despite, this Singapore Airlines continues to eye a travel bubble between the two countries.
A report in The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Lee Lik Hsin, a vice president at Singapore Airlines, saying;
“We still look forward to it (a travel bubble), and we certainly hope Australians and the Australian government think the same.”
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Singapore Airlines has a big slice of the Australian pie
In a normal year, there’s usually a congo line of flights whizzing between Singapore and Australia. According to Australian Government BITRE statistics, four of the ten busiest airline routes in and out of Australia in 2019 went to Singapore.
In 2019, the sector between Melbourne and Singapore was Australia’s busiest international airline route, flying 1,629,492 passengers. The third busiest international airline route was between Sydney and Singapore. The sixth busiest international airline route was between Perth and Singapore, and the seventh busiest international airline route was between Brisbane and Singapore. All up, 5,697,804 passengers traveled between the two countries in 2019.
And Singapore Airlines has a big slice of that pie. There are no shortage of airlines that normally fly direct to Singapore from Australia or vice versa. Qantas, Scoot, SilkAir, Emirates, British Airways, and Jetstar are some of the airlines that will get you there. Singapore Airlines carried 3,547,240 to and from Australia last year or 62% of total passenger numbers.
Singapore Airlines the only operator to keep flying Singapore – Australia
That’s a tasty bit of business, and no wonder Singapore Airlines is keen to ramp it up again. Unlike the other airlines that normally fly between Australia and Singapore, Singapore Airlines is the only operator who’s stuck with it throughout 2020.
“Even today, when load factors are in their teens, we are still operating quite a number of services to Australia,” Lee Lik Hsin told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth are all getting regular Singapore Airlines flights, although schedules are far skinnier than 2019 levels. The airline has also put its regular Silk Air flights to Cairns and Darwin on hiatus while axing its Canberra service altogether. But Singapore Airlines is well-positioned to bounce back fast if the Australian and Singaporean Governments can ever nail down a two-way travel bubble.
Travel bubble would be welcome news for Qantas
It’s not just Lee Lik Hsin who’s keen to see a travel bubble. The other significant operator on routes between Australia and Singapore is Qantas. Last year, they had just under 20% of the market and operated a mixed fleet of A380s and A330s to Singapore from four Australian cities. Flights between Singapore and Australia accounted for 15% of Qantas’ international passenger numbers in 2019.
While Lee Lik Hsin says Singapore Airlines is keen to get more flights and more passengers moving between Australia and Singapore, pundits shouldn’t look to the old way Singapore Airlines did business to predict its future operating strategy. Referring to loads and persevering in tough market conditions, the Singapore Airlines executive said;
“We are not going to hold ourselves to a standard of operating performance that we used to have prior to the pandemic.”