Singapore Airlines

Where is Singapore Airlines flying its passenger aircraft on cargo-only flights in June?

Around 20 Singapore Airlines passenger aircraft per day now depart Changi with only cargo on board

SQ A350 Cargo Loading (Uwe Aranas SS)

We’ve been keeping an eye on one of the more interesting and growing uses of the Singapore Airlines passenger fleet over the last couple of months – cargo-only services with no passengers. This is our third look at that part of the network, having previously studied what was operating in both April 2020 and May 2020.

Last week a total of 35 cities on the network received at least some flights with passenger aircraft carrying only belly-hold cargo, and that’s without even counting where the airline’s dedicated Boeing 747 freighters were flying.

We decided to take another look at the cargo-only routes this month. The significant ramp up is showing no signs of abating, with the number of passenger aircraft departing Changi carrying only cargo on board increasing by 23% since we checked last month.


SIA remains effectively a cargo airline

Just yesterday we updated on the lowest ever passenger numbers recorded across SIA’s skeleton network of 14 cities to and from Singapore in May 2020. On average just 280 customers travelled on these flights each day – a 99.5% reduction compared with the airline’s more typical daily total of 60,000 customers.

The airline’s passenger load factor also fell to just 9.2% during the month.

SQ 787 2018 Y (Edward Russell)
Singapore Airlines passenger flights were less than 10% full in May 2020. (Photo: Edward Russell)

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

While Singapore Airlines carried far less cargo in May 2020 compared to May 2019 for that very reason, cargo load factors on its flights increased from 60.5% to 74.9% year-on-year.

Fun fact: For every passenger carried, Singapore Airlines Group airlines used to carry 35kg of cargo (May 2019). Currently, they are shifting 4,708kg of cargo for every passenger carried (May 2020).

Fleet activity: June 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.

That increased to 18 in May 2020 and now averages 20 departures per day in June 2020.

On the busiest days 26 passenger aircraft depart with only cargo on board. Here’s how the airline’s 223 departures from Changi last week looked.

Singapore Airlines SIN Departures
(w/c 8th June 2020)
Day Passenger Aircraft
SQ 787 SCA Delivery (Paul Schmid)
SQ Cargo 747
Pax +
Mon 8 15 4
Tue 5 18 3
Wed 7 26 6
Thu 6 17 7
Fri 8 20 5
Sat 6 22 7
Sun 6 22 5
Total 46 140 37

SIA’s passenger departures from Changi are finally increasing this month, with last week marking the first flights under an increased schedule to 12 new cities. In total there were 46 Singapore Airlines passenger departures, a 50% increase compared to the 30 we saw in May 2020.

Cargo-only flights using the passenger fleet totalled between 15 and 26 daily departures from Changi, totalling 140 during the week. That’s a 23% increase since we checked last month.

Cargo-only operations by the passenger fleet currently outweigh passenger departures by around 3:1, making up over 60% of the airline’s flying activity.


Which routes?

Where are these 140 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
Singapore Airlines Passenger Fleet Activity
SIN Departures
(w/c 8th June 2020)
South & South East Asia
Dest Flt Days Acft
AMD SQ530 77W
BKK SQ976 787
BLR SQ8004 359
BOM SQ422 359 R
SQ8022 359
CGK SQ952 359 R
SQ960 787
SQ966 359
359 R
DAC SQ446 359 R
SQ8046 359 R
DEL SQ8006 787
HAN SQ176 359 R
KUL SQ104 359
MAA SQ8028 787
MNL SQ910 359 R
SQ912 787
SGN SQ178 787
SUB SQ930 773
North Asia
Dest Flt Days Acft
CAN SQ850 787
FUK SQ656 787
HKG SQ856 359 R
SQ890 787
ICN SQ600 787
359 R
KIX SQ622 359 R
NRT SQ12 773
SQ638 787
PEK SQ802 359 R
SQ806 77W
PVG SQ826 787
SQ830 787
SQ836 787
TPE SQ876 787
SQ878 787
South West Pacific
Dest Flt Days Acft
ADL SQ279 359 R
AKL SQ281 359
SQ285 359
BNE SQ265 359 R
CHC SQ297 359
MEL SQ207 359 R
SQ217 359 R
SQ237 359 R
PER SQ213 787
SQ223 787
SQ211 359 R
SQ221 787
SQ231 359
SQ288 359
SQ241 787
Europe / S. Africa / USA
Dest Flt Days Acft
AMS SQ324 359
BCN SQ388 359
CPH SQ352 359
FRA SQ26 77W
IST SQ392 359
JNB SQ478 359
LAX SQ38 359
LHR SQ322 359
SQ306 77W
ZRH SQ346 77W

Notably this month we saw a big shift away from from Shanghai (34 flights per week in May but only 17 flights last week), but a large increase in cargo-only flights to Europe (7 flights per week in May but 16 flights last week).

Amsterdam and London Heathrow are now effectively daily services, with the small number of passenger flights supplemented by dedicated cargo-only services on other days of the week.

SQ 787-10 (Boeing)
SIA’s Sydney route is now picking up 13 Boeing 787-10 cargo-only flights each week. (Photo: Boeing)

Here are the top routes for cargo-only flights last week using the passenger fleet:

  1. Shanghai: 17/week
  2. Beijing: 9/week
  3. Melbourne: 8/week
  4. Tokyo: 7/week
  5. Hong Kong: 7/week

These are in addition to any passenger flights that may be flown on the same routes.


Aircraft types

Singapore Airlines continues to deploy its core fleet of three cargo-capable aircraft types on its freight-only services:

  • Boeing 777-300s / -300ERs
  • Boeing 787-10s
  • Airbus A350-900s

These aircraft types have the largest underfloor cargo capacity and are therefore well equipped to be used for this purpose, despite very low passenger loads averaging just 29 per flight on the skeleton passenger network in May 2020.

Singapore Airlines Fleet
Underfloor cargo capacity
(highest to lowest)
Aircraft Type Cargo Capacity
Bulk loading LD3
777-300/-300ER 201.6 cu m 44
787-10 191.4 cu m 40
A380-800 175.2 cu m 38
A350-900 172.4 cu m 36
A330-300 158.4 cu m 32
777-200/-200ER 150.9 cu m 32
A350-900 ULR 85.7 cu m 16

Obviously the Airbus A380 has a reasonable cargo capacity, but at close to double the hourly operating cost of an A350 it makes no sense to use them for cargo-only flights, with the entire superjumbo fleet now stored either in Changi or at Alice Springs in Australia.

Both Singapore Airlines and Scoot now have regulatory approval to carry additional cargo in their main cabins on these cargo-only flights using passenger aircraft, following a successful trial in April.

Indeed 14 of the group’s aircraft are now set aside for this purpose, comprising Airbus A320s, Airbus A350s, Boeing 777s and Boeing 787s.

SIA group airlines can add up to 30% more cargo capacity this way, by utilising overhead locker space and strapping cargo to passenger seats, which have protective covers and netting installed to keep cargo securely in place.

A further step, removing the physical passenger seats themselves for additional cargo space, is also being explored by the group.


Where are the Boeing 747 freighters flying?

All seven of the Boeing 747-400 freighter aircraft in SIA’s fleet were busy flying last week.

SQC Routemap Jun

Routes include the regular cities in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

SQC B744 Nose (Singapore Airlines)
SIA’s Boeing 747-400 Freighters can carry over 110 tonnes of cargo. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

For those interested in what the freighters were up to last week, here are the (sometimes mammoth) journeys they took:

Monday 8th June 2020

  • Singapore – Delhi – Singapore
  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Anchorage – Los Angeles – Brussels – Mumbai – Singapore
  • Singapore – Bengaluru – Sharjah – Amsterdam – Sharjah – Singapore
  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Singapore

Tuesday 9th June 2020

  • Singapore – Guangzhou – Singapore
  • Singapore – Sydney – Auckland – Melbourne – Singapore
  • Singapore – Shanghai – Singapore
  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Singapore

Wednesday 10th June 2020

  • Singapore – Chennai – Sharjah – Amsterdam – Sharjah – Singapore
  • Singapore – Sydney – Melbourne – Auckland – Singapore
  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Anchorage – Los Angeles – Brussels – Sharjah – Singapore
  • Singapore – Shanghai – Singapore
  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Singapore

Thursday 11th June 2020

  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Singapore
  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Anchorage – Dallas – Brussels – Mumbai – Singapore
  • Singapore – Sydney – Singapore
  • Singapore – Guangzhou – Singapore
  • Singapore – Sharjah – London – Amsterdam – Sharjah – Singapore
  • Singapore – Shanghai – Singapore

Friday 12th June 2020

  • Singapore – Delhi – Singapore
  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Singapore (x2)
  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Anchorage – Los Angeles – Anchorage – Hong Kong – Singapore
  • Singapore – Shanghai – Singapore

Saturday 13th June 2020

  • Singapore – Sydney – Singapore
  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Anchorage – Dallas – Brussels – Sharjah – Singapore
  • Singapore – Sharjah – London – Amsterdam – Sharjah – Singapore
  • Singapore – Melbourne – Auckland – Melbourne – Singapore

Sunday 14th June 2020

  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Singapore
  • Singapore – Hong Kong – Anchorage – Los Angeles – Amsterdam – Sharjah – Singapore
  • Singapore – Chennai – Amsterdam – Sharjah – Singapore
  • Singapore – Sydney – Melbourne – Singapore
  • Singapore – Shanghai – Singapore


With 280 passengers per day in April, but nearly 1.5 million tonnes of daily freight in the same month, Singapore Airlines remained effectively a cargo carrier for the second consecutive month in May 2020.

Passenger flights are finally seeing an uptick this month, though a 23% month-on-month increase in cargo-only flights also continues.

A350 Cargo Loading (Uwe Aranas SS)
SIA’s 3-class and Regional Airbus A350-900s can carry practically the same underfloor cargo load as the Airbus A380, for half the fuel burn. (Photo: Uwe Aranas / Shutterstock)

It will be interesting to see how the disparity between passenger and cargo traffic evolves when the June 2020 operating statistics are released next month, given that the increased passenger services themselves will of course also carry underfloor freight.

For the rest of June, it looks as though around three-quarters of Singapore Airlines passenger aircraft flights are still carrying cargo-only, including some with cargo in the passenger cabin.

Click here to see the full passenger flight schedules operated by Singapore Airlines and SilkAir in June and July 2020.

(Cover Photo: Uwe Aranas / Shutterstock)


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