Singapore Airlines is shaking up its Chennai operations from May 2020, completely replacing Scoot services to and from the south-east Indian city with twice-daily Boeing 787-10 operation. These aircraft include 36 of the latest 2018 Regional Business Class seats, representing a big premium capacity boost for the route.
Here’s how the SIA Group schedule to and from Chennai currently looks, with a daily Singapore Airlines Airbus A330, daily Scoot Boeing 787-8 and three times weekly SilkAir Airbus A320 operating.
Some months, SilkAir also currently operates a fourth weekly (Thursday) service to and from Chennai.
Current schedule (until 19th May 2020)
|Flight||From / To||Aircraft||Days|
|MI436||SIN0740 – MAA0920||320||····567|
|SQ528||SIN2025 – MAA2200||333||Daily|
|TR578||SIN2250 – MAA0020*||788||Daily|
|TR579||MAA0120 – SIN0815||788||Daily|
|MI435||MAA1030 – SIN1720||320||····567|
|SQ529||MAA2315 – SIN0610*||333||Daily|
* Next day
From 20th May 2020 the daily Scoot service (TR578/579) will cease, with Singapore Airlines switching its SQ528/529 to Boeing 787-10 operation and adding a second six times weekly Boeing 787-10 to replace the Scoot flight – SQ526/527.
The new flight has almost identical timings to the Scoot service it is replacing, so these two wide body flights will operate only a couple of hours apart, with late night departure to Chennai and overnight service on the way back to Singapore.
The only exception is Tuesdays, where the new SQ526/527 service will not operate.
New schedule (from 20th May 2020)
|Flight||From / To||Aircraft||Days|
|MI436||SIN0740 – MAA0920||320||···4567|
|SQ528||SIN2025 – MAA2200||787||Daily|
|SQ526||SIN2250 – MAA0020*||787||1·34567|
|SQ527**||MAA0130 – SIN0820||787||1·34567|
|MI435||MAA1030 – SIN1720||320||···4567|
|SQ529||MAA2315 – SIN0610*||787||Daily|
* Next day
** From 21st May 2020
This will result in a weekly capacity boost for the group between Singapore and Chennai of around 4%.
More notably though, there will be a 31% increase in Business Class seats offered, from 393 in each direction per week today (even if you count ‘ScootPlus’ as Business Class) to 516 per week from late May 2020, 468 of which will be the new 2018 Regional Business Class flat-bed seat.
SilkAir’s daytime A320 flights will be the only ones with recliner seats installed in Business Class once the aircraft changes take effect.
As you would expect, economy cash fares on this route are on the way up with Scoot on the way out.
Typical basic round-trip fares with the group’s budget subsidiary, with no checked bag or meals, start at just under S$300 in April 2020, compared with S$450 on Singapore Airlines, though the latter do obviously include checked baggage and meals.
Another loss from the route will be the ‘ScootPlus’ cabin, a sort of Premium Economy equivalent typically priced at around S$640 return on the Chennai route.
Those wanting a slightly better experience than Economy Class will now have to settle for the SIA offering (SIA’s 787s don’t have a Premium Economy cabin), or stump up a much less attractive S$2,300 or so for a Business Class ticket.
This is definitely where a KrisFlyer saver redemption comes in as a more cost effective option.
Here are the one-way KrisFlyer redemption rates you’ll pay by cabin on the Singapore – Chennai route:
|KrisFlyer Redemption Singapore ⇄ Chennai|
It’s worth noting that this is one of those routes where if a saver Economy redemption is not available but an advantage one is, you should definitely check the Business Class availability before considering paying advantage rates. It’s only 2,000 miles more if Business savers are available in that case!
If you already hold or intend to book a firm ticket in an eligible Economy booking class, here’s how many miles it will then cost you to upgrade to Business Class, assuming saver upgrade award availability.
|Upgrade using KrisFlyer miles
Singapore ⇄ Chennai
|Upgrading to →||
|Existing booking ↓|
(Class: M, H, W)
(Class: Y, B, E)
Upgrading with miles on this route likely only makes sense if your company is paying for your Economy Standard / Flexi ticket, since you aren’t saving much over the full saver award rate in Business Class.
Singapore Airlines is currently offering both Business Class and Economy Class award space on these new Boeing 787-10 Chennai flights to members of other Star Alliance frequent flyer programmes, in both directions, though as usual you cannot use these schemes to redeem on SilkAir flights.
It will cost the following number of miles or points to redeem to Chennai from Singapore (or vice-versa) using miles from these popular Star Alliance programmes:
|Star Alliance redemption rates Singapore ⇄ Chennai|
All of these rates are costing you more miles than a saver award using KrisFlyer miles, with the sole exception of Business Class awards using Lufthansa Miles & More (not a widely held currency among our readers).
There is therefore likely to be little reason to book a partner award on these flights, unless you need to get rid of the miles you have in these programs or a KrisFlyer saver award is not available on your preferred date.
These rates all come in below KrisFlyer advantage redemption levels, and since Star Awards and KrisFlyer awards come from a different availability ‘bucket’, they can sometimes be available even when KrisFlyer is not offering redemptions at the saver level to its own members.
Our regular readers will know that Singapore Airlines has a monthly Spontaneous Escapes promotion, offering seats it doesn’t think it will sell for a discounted miles rate if you have the flexibility to book around one month before your travel date.
Chennai does come up in the Spontaneous Escapes offer some months, including in the current offer for travel in January 2020 (though only for SilkAir this time around).
With such a large capacity increase in Business Class especially, we would expect this route to become a regular appearance in the Spontaneous Escapes list, and at typical 30% discount levels you can expect to see last-minute one-way saver awards on the Chennai route for:
- 12,950 miles in Economy Class
- 27,300 miles in Business Class
For a four-hour flight in each direction, that’s good value, though do compare it with the cash fares on offer especially in Economy Class.
New Regional Business Class
Set to secure its spot as pretty much the only Regional Business Class seat offered on Singapore Airlines wide body jets by this time next year, the airline’s latest 2018 Regional Business Class seat has enjoyed a fast rollout thanks to new Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft deliveries.
In case you missed it, we checked out the new seats from a passenger perspective last year on the Boeing 787-10. Check out our full review of the product.
Most of our readers have a strong preference for these newer seats, which are definitely an improvement for solo travellers with increased privacy and direct aisle access.
If you’re flying this product you’ll also benefit from Wi-Fi access, not available on the airline’s A330s, with the first 100MB free for Business Class passengers.
Scoot will withdraw from Chennai in May 2020, but Singapore Airlines is going full steam ahead with 13 weekly Boeing 787-10 aircraft, each configured with 337 seats including 36 in the new Regional Business Class cabin.
This is great news for regulars on the current Airbus A330 services on this route, with the new aircraft boasting direct aisle access and flat-bed seats in Business Class, plus Wi-Fi connectivity. It should also bode well for award availability at the ‘pointy end’.
Sadly those used to no-frills cheap fares with Scoot will be disappointed, with no other low-cost carriers operating on this city pair non-stop from late May 2020. The news will also be regarded negatively by those who see value in the existing ScootPlus product to and from Chennai on the Boeing 787, which soon won’t be an option.
(Cover Photo: Paul Schmid)