Domestic travel has resumed in countries like New Zealand, South Korea and Vietnam. European countries are talking about reopening borders this summer.
Changi Airport and Hong Kong Airport will reopen to transit passengers in June. Singapore also announced this week that it will resume essential business and official travel with China, reported The Straits Times. And now Singapore Airlines has announced a significantly expanded schedule for June and July.
Singapore Airlines has had a terrible April and May
It’s no secret that April and May were brutal for Singapore Airlines. As COVID-19 hotspots increased across the globe, the airline operated a skeleton network to provide essential connectivity between Singapore and 15 other cities worldwide. A total of just 325 flights were scheduled for the whole month, representing a capacity cut of 96%.
That Singapore Airlines passenger jets were operating flights full of cargo instead of people was testament to the upside-down world of COVID-19. The airline posted its first-ever annual loss and went into survival mode, trimming staff and deferring aircraft deliveries.
At long last, some of that gloom may be lifting.
Singapore Airlines’ expanded June & July schedule
While Singapore Airlines is not out of the woods yet, it’s heartening to see them announce an expanded schedule for June and July. 500 new flights will be added to 11 additional cities, namely:
Cebu (CEB- served by SilkAir)
Hong Kong (HKG)
Medan (KNO- served by SilkAir)
This means that Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot will now fly to a combined 33 destinations, up from 17 just a month ago.
What happens if my flight has been cancelled?
If your flight has been cancelled, you’re entitled to a 100% refund in cash or a 100% refund in flight credits with a $75-500 bonus.
If your flight has not been cancelled but you don’t feel like travelling at the moment, you may still be eligible for a refund so long as your ticket was issued on or before 15 March 2020, with travel dates up to 31 July 2020.
If your travel date is from 1 August 2020 onwards, sit tight. Singapore Airlines reviews its refund policy each month based on the prevailing conditions and government advisories. If it’s still not possible to travel by then without attracting a Stay-Home Notice, you can be sure a refund will be offered (provided your ticket was issued on or before 15 March 2020).
Singapore Airlines’ full COVID-19 travel waiver policy can be viewed here.
What are the implications of the expanded schedule?
Now, to be clear. Singapore Airlines’ expanded route network doesn’t mean we’re all going on holiday anytime soon. The Singapore government’s advisory against all but essential travel remains firmly in place, and even though there’s talk of green lanes and travel bubbles, leisure travel won’t be in the picture for a while.
The reason why these destinations have come into the picture is because Singapore Airlines desperately needs connecting traffic. Up to a third of Singapore Airlines passengers connect through Singapore, and with the transit passenger ban lifting, there’s an opportunity to serve this market once more. Singapore Airlines will facilitate the repatriation of individuals stuck outside their home countries, and other essential travel between Europe and Asia/Australia.
So, why is this good news?
First, it’s good for the pilots, cabin crew and staff of Singapore Airlines. More flights means more utilisation, and the opportunity to recall personnel from involuntary furloughs. It also provides pilots with precious flight time, required to maintain their certification.
Second, it’s good for Changi Airport. Even if the intention is to hermetically seal transit passengers from interacting with airport staff, their very presence requires additional logistics and support, creating some much-needed economic activity.
Third, this may not mean leisure travel, but it’s sowing the seeds for the future. As operations scale up, airlines and authorities will have the opportunity to experiment with policies and procedures that travel in a post COVID-19 world will require.
How does social distancing work on a plane? How do you conduct airport testing at high volumes? What does the passenger experience look like from gate to gate? All these are questions that need to be resolved before leisure travel can resume in earnest.
So, even if you are not stepping foot on a Singapore Airlines plane in June or July, know that every expanded schedule is one step closer to us being able to travel again. And, if nothing else, it’s helping all those in the aviation industry to provide for their families.
As encouraging as it is to see Singapore Airlines’ expanded schedule, it’s important to keep things in perspective. This still represents a 94% cut in passenger capacity compared to what was originally scheduled for June and July 2020.
That said, we can take some small comfort in knowing that the bottom has been reached. The path to recovery will be slow, but we’re moving in the right direction.
In addition, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has unveiled new protocols for air travel. Here are what you need to know about the ICAO’s recommendations that give a hint of what air travel will look like in the age of Covid-19: