Singapore Airlines

Here’s where Singapore Airlines is flying its passenger fleet on cargo-only flights

Nearly 80% of Singapore Airlines flights departing Changi last week had no passengers on board, with the air cargo market solidifying itself as the carrier's biggest business amidst almost zero passenger demand

SIA Cargo in cabin 2 (Singapore Airlines)

Three weeks ago we took a look at the side of SIA’s flying network you don’t hear so much about at the moment – where it is flying aircraft that normally carry passengers instead with only cargo on board. It was a fascinating overview, revealing at least nine additional cities to the 14 currently flying customers on the network, and that’s without even counting where the airline’s dedicated freighter Boeing 747s were flying.

This month we decided to take another look at the cargo-only routes, and it’s clear that a significant ramp up has happened since then, with the number of passenger aircraft departing Changi carrying only cargo on board increasing by over 40% in the last three weeks.


SIA is now effectively a cargo airline

Last week we reported on the shockingly low passenger numbers on SIA’s remaining network of 14 cities to and from Singapore, with April 2020 statistics showing that just 300 customers joined these flights each day on average – a 99.5% reduction compared with the typical daily total of 60,000.

What continues to shift though is cargo, with a worldwide capacity shortage caused by the grounding of almost all passenger flights.

A350 ADL Cargo 2 (Adelaide Airport)
SIA’s cargo flights last week included Adelaide on the Airbus A350, carrying seafood, meat, eggs and wine. (Photo: Adelaide Airport)

While Singapore Airlines carried far less cargo in April 2020 compared to April 2019 for that very reason, cargo load factors on its flights increased from 58.1% to 75.6% year-on-year.

Fun fact: For every passenger carried, Singapore Airlines Group airlines used to carry 32kg of cargo (Apr ’19). Currently, they are shifting 3,648kg of cargo for every passenger carried (Apr ’20).

Fleet activity: May 2020

In our April 2020 analysis, at least 12 Singapore Airlines aircraft were departing Changi each day carrying only cargo, either in the underfloor holds of passenger aircraft or in one of the airline’s seven dedicated Boeing 747 freighter jets.

Last week that total had risen sharply to at least 18 such departures, rising to 23 on some days, while passenger departures hover between 2 and 7 each day.

Here’s how the airline’s 174 departures from Changi last week looked.

Singapore Airlines SIN Departures
(w/c 11th May 2020)
Day Passenger Aircraft
SQ 787 SCA Delivery (Paul Schmid)
SQ Cargo 747
Pax +
Mon 3 16 4
Tue 2 15 3
Wed 6 18 5
Thu 3 13 5
Fri 7 17 3
Sat 3 17 6
Sun 6 18 4
Total 30 114 30

Passenger departures from Changi dropped by four per week this month, compared to the week in April we examined. That’s down to three times weekly Singapore to Bangkok flights now carrying cargo-only due to an extension of the incoming flights ban by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand, and a single cancellation of SQ910 to Manila on Monday 11th May.

Cargo-only flights using the passenger fleet totalled between 13 and 18 daily departures from Changi, totalling 114 during the week. That’s a 42.5% increase since we examined the week of 20th-26th April 2020, three weeks earlier.

Cargo-only operations by the passenger fleet now outweigh passenger departures by nearly 4:1, making up over 65% of the airline’s flying activity.


Which routes?

Where are these 114 belly hold cargo services operating? We took a look at last week’s schedule and listed the departing flights from Changi in the following table, alongside the airline’s passenger services (which incidentally will also be carrying as much cargo as possible to maximise revenue).


Cargo-only flight
Passenger and cargo flight
Cargo outbound, pax and cargo inbound

Although we recorded cargo flights to Brisbane and Brunei in April, those weren’t flown last week. However we did see Adelaide, Auckland, Johannesburg and Osaka added to the list of cargo-only services using the passenger fleet.

Singapore Airlines Passenger Fleet Activity
SIN Departures
(w/c 11th May 2020)
South East Asia
Dest Flt Days Acft
BKK SQ976 787
CGK SQ952 359 R
SQ960 787
SQ966 359
359 R
HAN SQ176 359 R
KUL SQ104 359
MNL SQ910 359 R
SGN SQ178 787
SQ186 787
North Asia
Dest Flt Days Acft
CAN SQ850 787
HKG SQ890  ■ 787
ICN SQ600 787
359 R
KIX SQ622 359 R
NRT SQ12 773
SQ638 787
PEK SQ802 359 R
SQ806 77W
SQ8256 359 R
PVG SQ826 787
SQ828 77W
SQ8258 787
SQ830 787
SQ832 77W
SQ836 787
TPE SQ876 787
SQ878 787
South West Pacific
Dest Flt Days Acft
ADL SQ279 359
AKL SQ285 359
MEL SQ217 359
359 R
SQ227 77W