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Singapore Airlines announces 3,700 flight cancellations through May 2020

Singapore Airlines flight cancellations jump to 3,700 over the next few months, with 14% of planned services cut in March 2020 alone

A350R Landing 2 (Adelaide Airport)

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

Singapore Airlines has announced a new expanded list of flight cancellations for their planned services between February 2020 and May 2020, including those of regional subsidiary SilkAir, with more than 3,700 flights cancelled over the four-month period to address falling demand due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

“Singapore Airlines and SilkAir have made additional temporary adjustments to selected services across our network in response to weak demand due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“This will result in a 7.1% decrease in the scheduled capacity (measured in available seat-kilometres) from February to end-May 2020.

“The SIA Group has taken swift action to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. We will continue to monitor the situation, and be nimble and flexible in adjusting our capacity to match the changing demand patterns in the market.” Singapore Airlines

These latest cuts are inclusive of the 700 or so we wrote about last week.

The full list

Cancellations Preview 24-2
See the full list of cancelled flights here. (PDF, 112 KB)

In total 3,772 flights have been cancelled between 1st February 2020 and 31st May 2020; 2,474 Singapore Airlines services plus 1,298 of regional subsidiary SilkAir.

Here’s how the service reductions look by month for each airline.

Singapore_Airlines SilkAir Total
SIA SilkAir
Feb 2020 421 239 660
Mar 2020 1,016 605 1,621
Apr 2020 336 200 536
May 2020 701 254 955
Total 2,474 1,298 3,772

Overall, Singapore Airlines had originally planned to operate around 31,800 flights during this four-month period, so the cancellation rate for the airline by flight volumes averages at 7.8%.

SilkAir had planned 13,800 sectors, giving them a higher cancellation rate by flight volumes of 9.4%.

Here’s how the service reductions look by month for each airline as a percentage of planned flights now cancelled.

Singapore_Airlines SilkAir Total
SIA SilkAir
Feb 2020 5.4% 7.3% 6.0%
Mar 2020 12.4% 17.3% 13.9%
Apr 2020 4.3% 5.4% 4.6%
May 2020 8.7% 7.6% 8.4%
Total 7.8% 9.4% 8.3%

Cancellations peak in March, with over 12% of Singapore Airlines and 17% of SilkAir flights originally scheduled now not going ahead.

The company seems confident in Easter demand at this stage, reducing flight volumes in the busy April period by only 4-5%.

May sees around 8-9% of flights cancelled, though this will presumably be reviewed regularly and could increase closer to the time if the effects of the virus on demand are still ongoing in the coming weeks and months.

Why isn’t the capacity reduction 7.1%?

In its update on flight cancellations, Singapore Airlines stated that there would be “a 7.1% decrease in the scheduled capacity (measured in available seat-kilometres) from February to end-May 2020.”

This is correct, however available seat-kilometres (ASKs) is a more complex industry-accepted measure of an airline’s capacity (number of seats on an aircraft multiplied by number of kilometres travelled), whereas we have looked at a more simplistic change in flight volumes.

For example, if Singapore Airlines only operated two daily routes – Singapore to Frankfurt and Singapore to Delhi – each using an identically-configured Boeing 777-300ER, then decided to cut the Delhi route, capacity (by ASKs) would not fall by 50% (it would fall by about 29%, due to the difference in distance between the two routes). Flight volumes, however, would reduce by 50%.

Similarly Cathay Pacific’s recent 30% capacity reduction when measured as a drop in ASKs was actually a result of 57% of flights being cancelled, since the cancellations were generally on shorter intra-Asia routes while the long-haul network to the likes of Australia, Europe and the USA remained largely intact.

SIA cancellations by region

Singapore Airlines has split its cancellations list into six geographic regions. Here’s how the flight volume cancellations are spread across those areas during each month for the mainline carrier.

Singapore_Airlines Singapore Airlines Cancellations by region
Region Feb ’20 Mar ’20 Apr ’20 May ’20 Total
USA 30 100 6 22 158
Europe 6 4 86 96
North Asia 391 668 114 218 1,381
Southeast Asia 176 188 154 518
South West Pacific 38 10 197 245
Africa and West Asia 34 18 24 76
Total 412 1,016 336 701 2,474

Not surprisingly with most China flights cancelled and severe cuts to destinations like Hong Kong, the North Asia region takes the brunt of the cancellations (55%).

Aside from the obvious cuts in China and Hong Kong, 120 flights between Singapore and Taipei have been cancelled in March, April and May 2020 – 33% of planned capacity on the route.

At this stage, all Hong Kong and mainland China services resume from 1st April 2020 – a situation that is looking increasingly optimistic and will likely be reviewed again in the coming weeks.

Southeast Asia also has a large volume of cancellations, as do South Pacific destinations (Australia and New Zealand), which rely on a significant percentage of their demand from transfer traffic originating in China.

It’s also interesting to note the distribution of cancellations by month, with Asian cities taking the biggest hit in March but destinations further afield like Europe and Australia more heavily impacted in May, after the busy Easter period has finished.

Fun fact: May and June are traditionally the quietest demand months for Singapore Airlines’ Australia flights, with passenger loads of around 75%, significantly less than the annual average of 86% on these services. (Source: BITRE)

Sydney
SIA’s Australia services are quiet in May anyway, even without a virus in action, so it makes sense to decrease capacity further at that time of year.

A large chunk of Perth flights see a significant reduction in these latest cuts – with 64 cancellations in May representing 26% of planned services on the route that month.

SilkAir cancellations by region

Here’s how the SilkAir flight volume cancellations are spread across the four regions the airline flies to and from by month between now and May 2020.

SilkAir SilkAir Cancellations by region
Region Feb ’20 Mar ’20 Apr ’20 May ’20 Total
North Asia 235 279 2 2 518
Southeast Asia 4 234 168 184 590
South West Pacific 32 16 38 86
West Asia 60 14 30 104
Total 239 605 200 254 1,298

As with SIA mainline operations, almost all of SilkAir’s China flights (North Asia) are reinstated from April, which seems an unlikely scenario.

Given the airline’s operational network, it’s not surprising to see Southeast Asia take the biggest hit here (45% of all cancellations, 84% of cuts when looking at April alone).

One of the more notable cuts for SilkAir flights is Phuket services in March 2020, with 48 of the airline’s planned 266 flights (18%) cancelled.

We aren’t at SARS crisis levels yet

During the peak of the 2003 SARS outbreak, Singapore Airlines cut capacity by nearly 30% when measured by ASKs (actual flight volume reductions were higher).

Cabin crew were forced to take 1 weeks’ unpaid leave every two months, with all pilots taking 2 days’ unpaid leave every month.

Ultimately nearly 600 staff, including 26 pilots and 156 cabin crew, were made redundant that year.

SIA Office Sign (BalkansCat SS)
Singapore Airlines retrenched hundreds of staff at the height of the 2003 SARS crisis, however the current Coronavirus outbreak has not required such drastic action at this stage. (Photo: BalkansCat / Shutterstock)

These recent reductions, while significant, are still nowhere near those levels. According to this CNA article, the airline is taking steps to mitigate the impact including imposition of a hiring freeze for ground positions and a suspension of non-essential duty travel.

The airline’s commercial team is also “aggressively” driving sales and promoting air travel to and through Singapore.

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.

Summary

This is certainly a ramp up from the first set of cancellations announced last week, with more than 3,700 flights now cut over a four-month period, 1,600 of which are happening in March alone.

Economy Cabin
Singapore Airlines is suffering from low load factors on many routes as a result of weak demand. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

With China flights still on the schedules from 1st April 2020 onwards, it’s almost inevitable that further capacity cuts will become a regular announcement from Singapore Airlines over the coming weeks and months due to this situation, as the airline remains “nimble and flexible in adjusting capacity to match the changing demand patterns in the market”.

Standby for more cancellations from SIA and SilkAir.

(Cover Photo: Adelaide Airport)

5 comments

  1. Why not reduce fares, increase passenger volume, rather than cancelling flights.
    We were considering flying Brisbane to Singapore in May, the cost has increased
    By $160 p.p.compared to price available in Feburary, go figure.?

    1. Anyone still purchasing tickets has to travel. There is no reason to lower price. On the contrary, price should increase because they will pay.

      1. Further cancellations on Mar 5 due to new travel restrictions from Italy and South Korea by MOH on Mar 4.

        All Milan flights are 100% cancelled including SIN-MXP-BCN 5th Freedom flight.
        Rome flights are reduced but in an erratic manner – on average reduced from 4 weekly to 2-3 weekly.
        Seoul Incheon is reduced from 4x to 1x daily until end Apr, with some days having 2 flights in May.
        All Busan flights are 100% cancelled.

        This is similar to how SQ reduced flights to Mainland China when travel restrictions are announced,
        so we should expect the same pattern if a new country gets hit by travel restrictions.

        On a separate note, I wished SQ presented the flight cancellation in a simpler manner.
        The list of dates is really hard to digest and if they cancelled all flights they should just have said so.

        https://www.singaporeair.com/saar5/pdf/media-centre/200304flightcanxtable.pdf

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