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Emirates back-pedals on Singapore – Penang route

Gulf carrier Emirates has cancelled its fifth freedom flights between Singapore and Penang, before they even started

EK 777

Earlier this year we reported on Emirates’ latest route from Singapore, linking the Lion City with Malaysia’s food capital Penang on a daily basis from 9th April 2020. The airline was set to use a Boeing 777-300ER on the route, boasting First Class Suites and lie-flat beds in Business Class, as an extension to one of its existing Dubai services.

Penang is now axed

In a perhaps unsurprising move due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Emirates initially postponed its Penang launch date by three weeks to 1st May 2020.

The airline has now gone one step further and instead of pushing back the start date for a second time has instead cancelled its plans to serve Penang entirely, with flights removed from the published schedules right through to February 2021.

Penang (SS)
All Emirates flights to and from Penang have now been cancelled. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The schedule (that wasn’t)

Here’s how Emirates planned to extend its EK348 service to Penang, originally from 9th April 2020 and then from 1st May 2020:

Flight From / To Aircraft Days
EK348 DXB0230 – SIN1405 77W Daily
EK348 SIN1535 – PEN1715 77W Daily
EK349 PEN2220 – SIN2350 77W Daily
EK349 SIN0140 – DXB0455 77W Daily

While the EK348/349 Dubai flights, currently suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak, are planned to resume from July 2020, the Penang extension is now cancelled.

Why were people excited?

Emirates wasn’t planning to fly its latest Boeing 777-300ER cabin products on the Singapore – Penang route, including its six amazing fully-enclosed Suites, our favourite First Class product in the world (yes, we tried it).

That’s not too important though because eight of the airline’s older First Class Suites, still a cut above what many carriers offer in this cabin and also featuring closed-door privacy, were installed on the 777s scheduled to fly this route.

EK 77W F Overview (Emirates)
Emirates First Class on its older Boeing 777-300ERs. (Photo: Emirates)

While miles redemption rates between Singapore and Penang weren’t that attractive at 18,000 Qantas Points in Business Class and 27,600 in First Class, many of our readers were looking forward to this opportunity to experience lie-flat bed comfort on this short route.

A chauffeur pick up from home, some time in the Emirates Singapore Lounge, a quick stop by the new Qantas First Lounge prior to boarding then a 90-minute journey in a closed-door Suite was the top pick for most, and many of you went ahead and booked.

EK Lounge Singapore Entrance (Emirates)
The Penang departure would have been an opportunity to experience the Emirates Singapore Lounge at one of its quietest periods. (Photo: Emirates)

Competitive cash fares were also on offer, especially for one-way or return journeys starting in Penang.

Where is Emirates still flying from Singapore?

Right now, Emirates is not operating any of its Singapore services due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

EK A380 3
Emirates usually operates two Airbus A380 flights per day to Singapore, however no services are currently operating

At the time of writing, the carrier plans to start reintroducing flights to and from Dubai from 1st May 2020, with two daily services initially:

  • EK352 DXB-SIN (from 1 May)
  • EK353 SIN-DXB (from 2 May)
  • EK354 DXB-SIN (from 1 May)
  • EK355 SIN-DXB (from 1 May)

From June 2020 Emirates intends to restart its daily Singapore – Melbourne service, along with that flight’s usual Dubai element.

  • EK404 DXB-SIN (from 1 Jun)
  • EK404 SIN-MEL (from 2 Jun)
  • EK405 MEL-SIN (from 3 Jun)
  • EK405 SIN-DXB (from 3 Jun)

Pro Tip: Remember if you’re keen to try Emirates’ new Boeing 777 Business Class product, the daily EK404/405 flights between Singapore and both Melbourne and Dubai are always planned with this fit, however they still have the older First Class Suites.

EK New Business Small (Emirates)
Emirates’ newer Business Class seats are always planned on the Singapore – Melbourne flights. (Photo: Emirates)

Not until July 2020 does the airline propose to resurrect its EK348/349 service, the one that was originally due to continue to Penang but which will instead now spend nearly 12 hours on the ground at Changi.

  • EK348 DXB-SIN (from 1 Jul)
  • EK349 SIN-DXB (from 2 Jul)

These service reinstatements remain subject to significant change, depending on developments with the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Summary

It’s possible that Emirates might resurrect its plan to serve Penang via Singapore, though in all honesty as we said at the time of its announcement, the route looked like more of a ‘slot holder’ to us after the Brisbane route finished, while the airline finalised a better option in future.

Under IATA’s 80/20 ‘use it or lose it’ slot rules, airlines must fly at least 80% of services on every awarded flight pair at slot-constrained airports each season. That’s been largely relaxed across the world due to COVID-19, including here in Singapore, so Emirates doesn’t need to worry about losing any of its six daily slot pairs at Changi for now.

Flying a new route to Penang is therefore not really an attractive proposition in the current climate, reinforcing our opinion that it was probably only ever a short-term plan for the airline anyway.

One comment

  1. The chauffeur service, even if the route was to be launched, would be highly unlikely. E.g. Hong Kong’s flight to Bangkok

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