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Singapore Airlines load factor increases to 23% in July 2020

Additional transit flight approvals help bolster Singapore Airlines to achieve nearly one-quarter full planes in July 2020, from low points of just 9% in recent months

SQ A350 Zoom Small (Kwok Ho Eddie Wong)

Singapore Airlines has released its operating statistics for July 2020, with increased transit traffic through Changi reflecting positively on both total passenger numbers and load factors compared to the recent months. The mainline carrier filled 22.5% of its available seats, the highest level in four months, on 474 passenger flights.

Total passenger numbers remain very low as expected, with the airline carrying 98.6% fewer passengers when compared to July 2019.

“In July 2020, demand for air travel continued to be severely curtailed as border controls and travel restrictions remained in place around the world. Group passenger capacity (measured in available seat kilometres) was down by 94.3% year-on-year. Overall passenger carriage (measured in revenue passenger-kilometres) was lower by 98.6%, resulting in a Group passenger load factor of 21.6%, a decline of 64.2 percentage points year-on-year.

“SIA’s capacity was 93.1% lower compared to last year’s, with only a skeletal network in operation connecting Singapore to 25 metro cities. Passenger carriage declined 98.2%, resulting in a passenger load factor of 22.5%.”

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines

SIA welcomed over 1.9 million passengers on board its aircraft in July 2019, over 60,000 per day.

In contrast, a year later, the mainline carrier flew only 27,600 passengers in July 2020 on 474 passenger flights – an average of just 890 passengers per day and the equivalent of around 58 passengers on every flight.

Nonetheless, these statistics are an improvement on recent months, and a far cry from May 2020’s low point of 8,600 passengers (280 per day, 29 on average per flight).

SQtrans small

Operating Results: July 2020
(vs. July 2019)
July
2019
July
2020
Chg.
Passengers
(‘000)
1,912.0 27.6 -98.6%
Passenger
Flights
~7,900 474 -94.0%
Load
factor
85.9% 22.5% -63.4 pts

Overall a 98.6% drop in passengers was recorded against July 2019. Load factor dropped from 85.9% to 22.5%, though this was the highest level the airline has achieved in four months, no doubt a side effect of increased transit flight approvals through Changi Airport for those still travelling during this period.

Social distancing still wasn’t an issue of course – the average passenger still had 4 seats to themselves.

Load factors by region in July 2020 were as follows (June 2020 load factors in brackets):

  • Europe: 21.9% (10.2%)
  • Australia / NZ: 30.5% (12.6%)
  • East Asia: 18.3% (13.1%)
  • USA: 17.1% (17.9%)

As you can see it’s Europe and Australia that got the biggest boosts here, with flights more than twice as full compared to June 2020.

This is undoubtedly a result of increased transit passenger throughput, with the Europe – Australia / NZ market (and vice-versa) still seeing a significant number of passengers travelling either to return home or for other urgent / family reasons.

Interestingly, the airline’s three times weekly flights to and from Los Angeles, which were the busiest across the board in June 2020, are now among the quietest, with a slight decline in average loads.

Los Angeles is not a valid origin point for transit traffic through Changi Airport, so is restricted to LAX-SIN / SIN-LAX passengers, or those inbound to LAX from other destinations on the network.

SQtrans small

Operating Results: Jan-Jul 2020
Passengers
(‘000)
Passenger
Flights
Load
Factor
Jan 2020 1,936 7,907 84.1%
Feb 2020 1,273 6,987 67.4%
Mar 2020 665 4,563 55.7%
Apr 2020 9.2 300 9.3%
May 2020 8.6 299 9.2%
Jun 2020 13.9 389 12.4%
Jul 2020 27.6 474 22.5%

Looking at the year to date for Singapore Airlines, the load factor in particular stands out as a great improvement in July 2020, almost doubling from the previous month.

SilkAir

SilkAir carried 1,700 passengers on an increased network of 42 flights during July 2020, giving the carrier an average of 53 passengers on each service.

The average load factor for July 2020 was 43.3% – once again the best in the group.

“SilkAir’s passenger carriage decreased by 99.6% year-on-year against a 99.3% cut in capacity. Passenger load factor was 43.3%. SilkAir only operated flights to Chongqing, Kuala Lumpur and Medan in July 2020.”

Singapore Airlines

MI 738 (Anna Zvereva)
SilkAir flew three passenger routes in July 2020, exclusively using its Boeing 737-800 aircraft. (Photo: Anna Zvereva)

MI logo

Operating Results: July 2020
July
2019
July
2020
Chg.
Passengers
(‘000)
423.0 1.7 -99.6%
Passenger
Flights
~3,700 42 -98.9%
Load
factor
80.0% 43.3% -36.7 pts

Scoot

In July 2020 SIA’s low-cost subsidiary Scoot operated an expanded network of 104 passenger flights, carrying 4,600 passengers (compared to 2,600 passengers in June 2020).

“Scoot’s passenger carriage declined 99.6% year-on-year against a contraction in capacity of 97.1%, which led to a passenger load factor of 12.6%. In July 2020, Scoot increased the number of destinations served to nine (Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Ipoh, Kuching, Nanjing, Penang, Perth, Surabaya and Taipei). Operations to West Asia and Europe remained suspended.”

Singapore Airlines

TZtrans

Operating Results: July 2020
July
2019
July
2020
Chg.
Passengers
(‘000)
962.0 4.6 -99.5%
Passenger
Flights
~4,800 104 -97.8%
Load
factor
86.9% 12.6% -74.3 pts

Scoot’s lowest ever monthly traffic totals were seen in May 2020, an average passenger load factor of just 2.7%, though this increased to 7.7% in June 2020 and now stands at 12.6% in July 2020.

Load factors by region in July 2020 were as follows (June 2020 load factors in brackets):

  • Australia: 5.1% (4.0%)
  • East Asia: 18.1% (11.5%)

The low total to and from Australia is partly due to the airline’s deliberate use of its largest capacity aircraft (Boeing 787-9s) on Perth flights, to take advantage of underfloor cargo capacity.

On average each of the airline’s Perth flights had only 19 passengers on board, despite capacity for 375. This was a slight increase compared to June 2020, however.

Transit passengers

As we’ve mentioned above, all SIA Group carriers are now reaping the increased benefits of additional transit flight approvals through Changi Airport.

This seems particularly noteworthy on the Europe and Australia / NZ flights, suggesting SIA is now helping to serve a nice chunk of that popular market, which includes the ‘Kangaroo Route’.

Passengers in transit through Changi are still following a strict segregation process to help avoid the potential for COVID-19 transmission, as we outlined in our article from June 2020.

We expected to see a hike in numbers in July 2020 from this source of traffic, and it’s pleasing to see that has happened.

Additional transit permissions in August 2020, with more eligible origin points, should hopefully lead to another increase in the next set of data, with routes like Auckland seeing progressively increased service due to demand from connecting passengers.

Transit origin city approvals have also started to encompass the first South East Asian destinations, with Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Phnom Penh recently joining the map.

SQ Transit Origin 11 Aug
The latest selection of 28 valid origin points for transit flights through Singapore (click to enlarge)

Note: Since the time of writing, transit origin approvals have now been extended across 37 cities on the current SIA network.

Cargo

One saving grace for the SIA group continues to be cargo, with the collective freight load factor across all carriers in the group up from 58.1% in July 2019 to an impressive 84.6% in July 2020.

SQ A350 AKL Cargo (Jordan Tan)
A Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 operating a cargo-only service to Auckland. (Photo: Jordan Tan)

Cargo volumes themselves fell sharply however, from over 103 million tonnes in July 2019 to less than 56 million tonnes in July 2020, due to the significant reduction in capacity with the vast majority of the airline’s passenger fleet either grounded or only flying once per week or so.

“Cargo load factor was 26.5 percentage points higher as the capacity contraction of 60.9% year-on-year outpaced the 43.1% decline in cargo traffic (measured in freight tonne-kilometres). All route regions recorded increases in cargo load factor in July 2020.”

Singapore Airlines

Last month we analysed how Singapore Airlines is continuing to launch three passenger aircraft with only freight in the holds for every one taking passengers in this analysis, highlighting the 140 such flights currently departing from Changi each week.

Could leisure travel start to be unlocked?

Singapore’s COVID-19 cases are now at very low levels, with almost no community transmission evident in recent days. That has encouraged newly appointed Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung to talk up the potential for quarantine-free leisure travel between the Lion City and nations with similar or better low risk countries.

With no timescales or even specific countries mentioned, this still seems a long way off, however there is at least the potential for SIA Group carriers to tap into some tourist travel activity perhaps in late 2020.

The idea of one-way tourism into Singapore for visitors originating in countries that continue to prohibit inbound leisure travel from the Lion City was also touted as a means to improve the local economy. This would be a similarly welcome boost to the national carrier, now serving 29 routes across its mainline division alone.

Summary

In July 2020 Singapore Airlines had its highest monthly passenger total since schedules were first slashed in April, with all three of the group carriers increasing flights and carrying more passengers in the process to a progressively wider network.

In what was the first full month of transit passenger approval through Changi, significant increases in passenger loads were seen to most cities, especially in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, which picked up almost twice as much traffic compared to June 2020.

Overall however the numbers remain very low. It would usually take only 10 hours on average for 27,600 passengers to complete their journeys on Singapore Airlines flights, not 31 days!

With short-term visitors still prohibited from entering Singapore and with no domestic market to serve, all three passenger airlines in the SIA group continue to be almost completely unable to tap into any local point-to-point passenger demand due to the widespread travel restrictions imposed across almost all markets.

SQ Tails (TK Kurikawa SS)
(Photo: TK Kurikawa / Shutterstock)

However, more flight frequencies and transit approvals for August, September and October 2020 should mean further small increases in passenger numbers over the coming months.

This latest increase also bodes well for traffic totals through Singapore Changi Airport. Operating statistics through the facility for July 2020 will be announced later this month, however there was already a doubling of passengers between June and July 2020.

(Cover Photo: Kwok Ho Eddie Wong)

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