Singapore Airlines, a lion among carriers for its healthy fleet of wide-bodies, its roomy premium class seats, its celebrity chef-guided menus and not forgetting point-to-point international service that often ranks at the top for distance in long-haul flights, is expanding service and presence in the U.S. with an assured optimism that the American business flyer will live to fly another day.
To that end, starting June 16, a coveted Fifth Freedom route between Los Angeles LAX and Tokyo Narita (NRT), will resume service. The Fifth Freedom element refers to non-stop air service that links two foreign countries when neither destination is the carrier’s flag country. The designation is given to air routes between two foreign countries when that route is part of a larger route to or from the carrier’s home country. For Singapore Airlines these have been lucrative routes, giving loyal customers a chance to fly the carrier when not necessarily involving Singapore in the plan. And other passengers have a chance to try out the airline and experience the differences from other carriers.
Other SIA Fifth Freedom routes that have yet to resume include:
• Frankfurt – New York (JFK) – Frankfurt
• Hong Kong – San Francisco – Hong Kong
• Manchester – Houston – Manchester
• Melbourne – Wellington – Melbourne
• Moscow – Stockholm – Moscow
The airline has maintained daily service between LAX and SIN since December, and has been offering service from San Francisco International Airport, and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York since January.
The new LAX-NRT schedule will employ a Boeing 777-300ER one of the largest in the fleet and featuring four classes of services and a vigorous start-up roster of five flights per week, positioning itself in with strength against American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines when borders open and demand for international travel resumes. The flight also expects to capture business from Singapore nationals who may want to break up the trip and from passengers traveling onto other destinations in Asia.
Currently, in Asia, only Cambodia (open to diplomatic, official and business travelers only with a $2,000 deposit and other requirements), Maldives, Pakistan, South Korea (quarantine is mandatory), Sri Lanka and Thailand (with a Special Tourist Visa and 14-day quarantine) are open for entry for non-essential travel.
Singapore Airlines was hit hard by the pandemic, possibly harder than most airlines as it is, by nature of Singapore’s size and location, an international airline based in a land that has been closed off from international travel since the pandemic began more than a year ago. Singapore Airlines Group reported a decline in overall passenger carriage for March by 90.2 percent year-on-year, as a result of border controls and travel restrictions worldwide.
“We are not just ‘hunkering down’ to a situation that will not grow. We have seen this before and we always come out much stronger as we strengthen our balance sheet. We envisage we will restore our previous network to pre-COVID levels when we open our routes. But we believe the opportunities for our business to grow are in place. We don’t see shrinking in our future. As it stands we see the US market as ready to travel again, but rest of world is not. We are not safe until everyone is safe,” said Joey Seow, Regional Vice President – Americas. “Our commitment to the U.S. market remains strong, and we will continue to invest in building our schedule and network to accommodate a longer-term return to travel as market conditions improve.”