Update: Singapore Airlines appears to have withdrawn its plans to serve Johannesburg via Male during this period. Boeing 737-800s will continue to operate flights to and from Male, including VTL services.
If there’s been one relative constant since the start of the pandemic, it’s Singapore Airlines telling us it can and will act “nimbly” to whatever COVID-19 brings its way. Indeed there’s barely a network update or financial statement from the carrier that goes without a reminder of the buzzword.
Well you have to give the airline credit for this latest innovative plan to show us how nimble it can be. Just days after the Omicron variant forced SIA to switch nearly all its Johannesburg – Singapore flights to cargo-only operation – a solution has been reached to earn some extra revenue on the route.
Singapore – Male – Johannesburg
For a seven-week period from Tuesday 14th December 2021 until Saturday 29th January 2022, SIA will operate its regular SQ478 service from Singapore to Johannesburg via Male in the Maldives on Tuesdays and Saturdays, where the three-class Airbus A350 will drop off passengers before continuing to South Africa.
Singapore Male Johannesburg
(14 Dec 2021 – 29 Jan 2022)
SQ478 will carry both Johannesburg-bound and Male-bound passengers on Tuesdays, but will only carry Male-bound passengers on Saturdays, continuing as a cargo-only service to South Africa.
On the return leg from Johannesburg to Singapore as SQ479 the aircraft will again make a Maldives stop, having operated cargo only from Johannesburg.
Johannesburg Male Singapore
(14 Dec 2021 – 30 Jan 2022)
* Next day
This time it will pick up passengers only in Male and take them to Singapore on Wednesdays and Sundays, both of which will also operate as 253-seat Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flights.
These will complement existing Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-800 VTL services from Male to Singapore, as shown below (click to expand):
Better cabin products
Snagging one of these Airbus A350 flights to and from Male, including on the VTL service to Singapore, should be top of your sights if you’re interested in a Maldives trip between mid-December and the end of January 2022.
That’ll score you the popular 2013 long-haul Business Class seat on this route (for the first time, if we’re not mistaken).
It’s a far cry from the recliner seats you’ll otherwise get to and from Male, on the ex-SilkAir Boeing 737-800s.
Even in Economy Class the difference is stark, with A350s sporting seat-back in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi.
On ex-SilkAir Boeing 737-800s, however there are neither of these benefits, with a fairly basic seat on offer and streamed IFE to your own personal device, from an on-board server.
Those wising to travel from Singapore to the Maldives quarantine-free can take any non-stop flight from Changi to Male. It’s only the return flight to Singapore that needs to be VTL designated.
Here are the current entry requirements if you’re heading to the Maldives quarantine-free:
- Complete a “Traveller Health Declaration” at most 24 hours before departure at imuga.immigration.gov.mv
- Have a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken at most 96 hours before departure from the first embarkation point. Passengers who have transited for more than 24 hours must repeat the test (excludes passengers under 1 year of age).
- Have a COVID-19 vaccination certificate showing that you were fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria or SK Bioscience Co Ltd. from Korea), Covishield, Janssen, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinopharm or Sputnik V at least 14 days before arrival, or have a positive COVID-19 PCR test taken at most 60 days before arrival and a recovery certificate.
- Unvaccinated children aged under 18 can travel with their fully vaccinated parents.
- Tourists must have a hotel reservation confirmation for the entire stay in a registered tourist facility. More details can be found here.
Here are the redemption rates you’ll pay when flying on an SIA flight between Singapore and the Maldives.
|KrisFlyer Redemption Rates
🇲🇻 Maldives to/from Singapore
Remember these rates apply regardless of the aircraft type used.
It’s certainly a different proposition to part with 39,000 miles one-way for a Boeing 737-800 Business Class seat than it is for an Airbus A350 long-haul one!
Singapore Airlines is offering redemptions in Premium Economy to and from Male on these A350 flights, the first time the cabin has been deployed on this route, however the value is terrible at 32,000 miles each way (just 7,000 miles shy of a Business Class Saver award).
Based on the short 4.5 hour flight on a daytime service, it’s not worth the additional miles in this case, provided a good Economy Class fare, Economy Saver award or Business Saver award is available.
Cash fares in Premium Economy are not being offered solely between Singapore and Male, however those on connecting long-haul flights, to and from the USA or Europe for example, can book a Premium Economy seat all the way through on these A350 services.
Although SIA is only operating these new Singapore – Male – Johannesburg – Male – Singapore flights with passengers twice per week, over the same seven-week period during December and January it will mount four additional weekly services only carrying cargo on the exact same routing.
That’s another interesting and potentially clever way to tap into the Singapore – Maldives and Johannesburg – Maldives cargo markets (those 5-star hotel guests need their steak and fine wines!).
While passenger traffic between Singapore and South Africa is suppressed, tourism from around the world to the Maldives is rebounding, especially over the festive season. This move will allow SIA to offer extra cargo to the islands by shifting its capacity in the short term onto this new routing, where the airline clearly feels there’s money to be made.
The final passenger flight from Johannesburg to Singapore will operate on 9th December 2021, then be suspended until 1st February 2022 provisionally. The route’s Cape Town extension is also temporarily cancelled.
Singapore Airlines Airbus A350s debut on the Maldives route, albeit temporarily and only from a reshuffle of Johannesburg flights, due to the latest Omicron situation.
The news also means a long-haul Business Class seat option on the Male route, which joins the VTL programme next week.
Shifting all four cargo-only Singapore – Johannesburg – Singapore flights to route via Male from next week might also help SIA tap cargo demand into the Maldives, whose resorts will be busy during the festive season and are almost wholly reliant on imported produce.
Nimble they say? Yes we think SIA deserves the title with this one!
(Cover Photo: Lucas Wunderlich)