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Singapore Airlines cuts capacity on a swathe of worldwide routes

Singapore Airlines has cancelled 494 flights, plus 180 of its regional subsidiary SilkAir, between March and May 2020. What routes are affected and which come out worst?

SQ 77W (Aero Pixels)

6th March 2020: Singapore Airlines has updated its list of cancelled flights due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Click here for the latest information.

The recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has had a severe impact on flights to and from China and Hong Kong in particular, with Singapore Airlines already drastically cutting its schedules to those destinations in the last few weeks, while also suspending crew layovers in China.

Like many carriers in the region, Singapore Airlines is also having to cut capacity on its network in other markets due to falling demand. This morning the airline announced a range of service cancellations on over 40 routes including Tokyo, Sydney, New York and London, between March and May 2020.

“Singapore Airlines and SilkAir will temporarily reduce services across our network due to weak demand as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.” SIA Spokesperson

A total of 674 flights have been cancelled; 494 Singapore Airlines services and 180 SilkAir ones, representing about 2% of the two airlines departures over the period. Affected passengers will be reaccommodated onto other flights.

2020 Cuts
Click to see the full list of flight cancellations by route (pdf, 510 KB)

No single region is immune from the service reductions, however it’s North Asia destinations taking the brunt of the cuts as you might expect.

We’ve analysed how the reduction applies in percentage terms compared to the number of flights originally scheduled to operate on each route, a far more meaningful metric than the number of cancellations alone.

For example SilkAir cancelling 4 Kuala Lumpur flights in March is just a 1% reduction (barely worth mentioning), while Singapore Airlines cancelling 6 Dusseldorf flights in May is a much more significant 17% capacity cut.

Key % of flights cancelled
< 5 %
5 – 10%
10 – 15%
> 15%

Here’s a summary of the cancellations, which between Singapore Airlines and SilkAir affect over 40 routes in total.

North Asia (158 flights)

Singapore_Airlines Cancellations
(% of originally scheduled flights)
Mar Apr May
Tokyo 2
(0.5%)
16
(4.4%)
64
(17.2%)
Seoul 26
(10.5%)
16
(6.7%)
30
(12.1%)
Busan 4
(12.5%)


Click here for a full list of affected flights

Tokyo sees significant service reductions in May, with 17% of flights cancelled, while Seoul doesn’t fare much better with 12% of flights cut.

South Asia & South East Asia (134 flights)

Singapore_Airlines Cancellations
(% of originally scheduled flights)
Mar Apr May
Taipei 6
(4.8%)
34
(28.3%)
14
(11.3%)
Jakarta 20
(3.6%)

Bangkok 14
(3.8%)
10
(2.8%)
Brunei 8
(19.0%)
12
(27.3%)
Dhaka 8
(9.1%)
   
Mumbai 8
(4.3%)
   
Click here for a full list of affected flights

Taipei’s cut is one of the most significant on the network at 28% of capacity during April 2020 (though March and May see smaller reductions).

Brunei only has five SIA services per week, so cuts of 8 and 12 in April and May respectively represent a large proportion on that route.

For well-served routes like Bangkok and Jakarta, though the cancellation numbers look large, this is really ‘tinkering at the edges’ with capacity – more than 95% of flights will operate as normal.

Australia / New Zealand (94 flights)

Singapore_Airlines Cancellations
(% of originally scheduled flights)
Mar Apr May
Brisbane 6
(2.4%)
Christchurch 6
(9.7%)
Perth  
30
(12.1%)
Melbourne 18
(6.2%)
Sydney 34
(11.0%)
Click here for a full list of affected flights

There are no planned cancellations on Australia and New Zealand flights until May 2020, when Perth sees the biggest hit losing 12% of its flights, followed by Sydney at 11%.

Christchurch loses the same number of flights as Brisbane during the month, however the impact on that ‘once per day’ route is far more stark, representing a 10% capacity cut.

Interestingly Auckland and Wellington have escaped any cancellations for now, so the overall impact on New Zealand flights is relatively limited.

Africa & Middle East (12 flights)

Singapore_Airlines Cancellations
(% of originally scheduled flights)
Mar Apr May
Dubai 4
(6.7%)
6
(9.7%)
Johannesburg   2
(2.3%)
 
Click here for a full list of affected flights

A relatively small number of flights to and from Dubai and Johannesburg have been cancelled in April and May.

USA (14 flights)

Singapore_Airlines Cancellations
(% of originally scheduled flights)
Mar Apr May
New York 2
(1.6%)
Los Angeles   2
(1.4%)
4
(2.7%)
Seattle     6
(13.6%)
Click here for a full list of affected flights

Seattle takes the biggest hit in the small number of USA cancellations, with 3 fewer flights to the city in May 2020 (plus 3 flights back), representing a 14% capacity cut that month.

Europe (82 flights)

Singapore_Airlines Cancellations
(% of originally scheduled flights)
Mar Apr May
Frankfurt 4
(3.2%)
4
(3.3%)
10
(8.1%)
Paris 6
(9.7%)
Copenhagen  
8
(12.9%)
London 2
(0.8%)
42
(16.9%)
Dusseldorf 6
(16.7%)
Click here for a full list of affected flights

March and April are relatively safe, however May 2020 sees a significant proportion of flight cancellations to and from London (17%), Dusseldorf (17%), Copenhagen (13%), Paris (10%) and Frankfurt (8%).

SilkAir cuts

SIA’s regional subsidiary SilkAir is cancelling 180 flights between March and the end of May 2020, with the following routes affected:

SilkAir Cancellations
(% of originally scheduled flights)
Mar Apr May
Penang 2
(0.6%)
4
(1.2%)
10
(3.0%)
Yangon 10
(1.6%)
Surabaya 4
(3.8%)

Makassar 2
(7.7%)
2
(7.7%)
Koh Samui 8
(6.5%)
6
(5.0%)
6
(4.8%)
Bandung 8
(12.9%)
4
(6.7%)
Balikpapan 2
(7.7%)
2
(7.7%)
Kuala Lumpur 4
(1.0%)

Phnom Penh 2
(1.3%)
4
(2.6%)
Siem Reap 2
(2.3%)
10
(11.5%)
Darwin 18
(29.0%)
2
(3.3%)
8
(12.9%)
Cairns 14
(22.6%)
Cochin 36
(34.6%)

Colombo 2
(7.7%)
Kathmandu 4
(6.5%)
Male 6
(7.7%)
Click here for a full list of affected flights

By far the biggest impact for SilkAir flights is Cochin in March, with over a third of flights cancelled, though strangely all flights are restored in the April and May rosters.

Darwin is next, with 29% of services cut in March and 13% in May (though the airline is clearly confident about Easter bookings, with only a 3% cut applied in April).

Cairns also sees a significant drop in of 23% in May.

MI A319 USM (Jeerapan Jankaew)
SilkAir’s cancellations include Koh Samui, but that’s far from the worst affected route. (Photo: Jeerapan Jankaew / Shutterstock)

Other routes, including the airline’s popular Koh Samui flights, aren’t seeing big reductions (cancelling 4 out of 400 Kuala Lumpur flights in March even seems slightly pointless).

Zurich downgauges

Aside from the flight cancellations, Singapore Airlines is also reducing capacity on its daily Zurich flight during May 2020.

Zurich
No cancellations on the Zurich route, but a big capacity drop is planned in May 2020

Currently served by a 471-seat Airbus A380 Version 3 aircraft, with the latest Suites and Business Class cabins, this route will be operated by the 264-seat Boeing 777-300ER on the following dates:

  • 4-8 May
  • 11-22 May
  • 24-28 May

That represents 22 out of 31 services in each direction, and an overall capacity cut of 31% on the route, the highest level seen for the airline in May – making London and Tokyo’s 17% flight volume drops that month look much less significant.

Only SilkAir’s Cochin route, with a dramatic 35% capacity cut in March 2020, beats this one.

At this stage the A380 is scheduled to return to the Zurich route from 29th May 2020, however that could change if weak demand persists.

If you’re travelling to or from Zurich in May 2020, especially in the Suites cabin, you may wish to check your booking as the 2013 First Class seats on the Boeing 777-300ER, while very nice indeed, aren’t quite in the same league.

What if your flight is affected?

If you’re booked on a flight which has been cancelled, Singapore Airlines will notify you and outline details for reaccommodating you on alternative flights.

If you booked through a travel agent, you should contact your agent directly for assistance (they are actually the ones who control your booking). If you booked directly with Singapore Airlines, you can contact the reservations team on +65 6223 8888.

Pro Tip: Remember if you have already been sent details of your new flight arrangements and are happy with them, there is no need to call SIA. Your new flight details can be viewed on the ‘Manage Booking’ portal.

If you booked an award ticket through yesterday’s Spontaneous Escapes deal for March 2020, luckily there should be no issue for you as Singapore Airlines began removing the inventory for these flights yesterday evening (availability was ‘zeroed out’, even for cash bookings, before the flights disappeared from the schedules).

In theory – you won’t have been able to book a (now) cancelled flight under that offer.

Summary

Nearly 500 flights in a 3-month period sounds like a large number, however as a proportion of SIA’s total flying programme it’s actually something in the order of 2% (SIA flies around 24,000 flights per quarter).

In addition SilkAir flies around 10,000 flights per quarter, so their cancellation of 180 flights between March and May 2020 represents less than 2% of total operations.

SQ Tails at T3 (Alen Thien SS)
The vast majority of Singapore Airlines and SilkAir flights will be operating as normal between now and the end of May. (Photo: Alen Thien / Shutterstock)

Granted, the actual cancellation rate compared to the same period in 2019 is higher for both carriers, as it does not take account of the China and Hong Kong service reductions already in effect before these additional cuts were announced.

As we mentioned in our recent update on Hong Kong lounges, Cathay Pacific has cut 30% of its capacity (when measured by ASKs), but is actually cutting over half its flights in February and 57% of services in March. Singapore Airlines is nowhere near those kind of cancellation levels at this stage.

Nonetheless these cuts could be the tip of the iceberg for the SIA group, depending on how the COVID-19 virus situation develops over the coming weeks and months, and its impact on travel demand.

Singapore Airlines has said it will “continue to monitor the situation and make further adjustments as necessary”. We predict that further cancellations beyond May 2020 are somewhat likely.

Though reported new cases of the virus have been broadly reducing for the last few days, it’s still too early to tell exactly how much impact this outbreak will have on the industry this year, and maybe next.

(Cover Photo: Aero Pixels)

8 comments

  1. I thank my lucky stars I ran across your site some months ago for I now get every post you make. My wife and I have 3 SQ flights lined up over the next 5 months. BKK/LAX LAX/BKK

    So I am watching carefully now. I am picky as heck in plane/seat.
    Thank You

    1. For SQ the reductions on PEK/PVG/CAN/HKG total 150 flights per week – about 8.1% of all weekly departures.
      For MI the reductions on CTU/CKG/SZX/XMN total 70 flights per week – about 8.8% of all weekly departures.

      So realistically these new cancellations announced today reduce the SQ/MI departing flight volumes by about 10% since ‘pre-virus’ days (slightly more in May, which sees the brunt of the latest cuts).

      1. Wow thanks Andrew – so the China flights are a much bigger impact than the new ones announced. Where do you see this going Jun onwards? 20%, 30%….?

      2. Jetstar Asia, albeit a low-cost carrier, also had 8% of its market on China routes. It has cut those plus another 7% from March onwards for a total of 15% reduction in flights ex-SIN, and Qantas has said it will double that cut if the effects of the virus persist.

        30% is a realistic possibility for SQ. That would still be a smaller reduction in flights than during the SARS crisis.

  2. I’m doing SQ-638 on March 9, 23:55, in first. Luckily not affected, as this is the start of a trip to go Island Hopping by United from Hawaii to Guam a few days later. Still all manageable as I added 3 nights before and after this United flight as well, so late changes should be possible to absorb, but I’d rather not.

  3. A few of my observations:
    TPE in late May saved from a number of cuts – I assume computex might be a factor in it (late May/early June), that is assuming computex is still going ahead (MWC got cancelled)
    A quick check of main destinations with multiple flights per day shows the flights that I thought are usually less desirable being cut. But SYD loses both SQ221/231 and SQ222/232, and on the same days. These are both A380s and I thought were the main SYD flights for SQ – SQ221/231 are SQ’s only overnight flights to SYD; on the return SQ232 seems to be popular for connections to SE Asia and India, and SQ222 serves the Europe connections.

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