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Singapore Airlines reinstating non-stop Busan flights in 2023

Singapore Airlines will head back to Busan with non-stop flights revived from June 2023, though smaller Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft will provide only around half the carrier's pre-pandemic capacity on the route.

This week Singapore Airlines announced a ramp-up of flight schedules in the region to support strong demand, including a return to South Korea’s second gateway city Busan from June 2023, a route the carrier took over from SilkAir in October 2019 but suspended in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This will see four times weekly services reinstated once again from 2nd June 2023, albeit with the carrier’s smaller 154-seat Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft, bringing back around half the route’s pre-pandemic capacity, with Airbus A330s plying the city pair prior to the suspension.

Busan, South Korea. (Photo: Brendan Meachen)

This will be the first time the airline has served Busan in over three years. The city has been served from Singapore by Jeju Air since June 2022 and is currently flown up to five times weekly by the South Korean low-cost carrier.

The schedule

These SIA Busan services next summer have already been loaded into the reservation system, with the following planned schedule four times per week.

Singapore Airlines
Singapore ⇄ Busan Schedule
(2nd June 2023 – 28th October 2023)

  Days
M T W T F S S
SQ616
737-8 MAX
SIN
23:15
PUS
06:30*
SQ615
737-8 MAX
     
PUS
07:50
SIN
13:05

* Next day

Singapore – Busan flights depart Changi at 11.15pm and operate overnight, landing at 6.30am the following day. On the return leg, early morning departure from Busan sees you back in the Lion City in time for lunch at around 1pm.

Flight time is 6 hours 15 minutes in each direction, making this the airline’s second longest Boeing 737-8 MAX service after Cairns, which clocks in at 6 hours 45 minutes.

Singapore Airlines will use its Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft to serve Busan, providing around half the carrier’s pre-COVID capacity on the route. (Photo: Kittikun Yoksap / Shutterstock)

This effectively restores pre-COVID schedules on the route, though as mentioned before the downgauge from Airbus A330-300s to the Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft means only around 54% of the former seat capacity will be available.

That’s even more apparent in Business Class, with 10 seats per flights on the MAX, compared to 30 seats per flight on the A330 before COVID-19, a two-thirds reduction.

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While Singapore Airlines has been quick to point out that it will have “resumed pre-pandemic flight frequency levels” to and from Busan, it’s important to note that’s only half the story! Capacity will still be well down.

SIA’s 737 MAX cabin products

Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 737-8 MAX jets feature all-new narrow-body cabin products, including a flat-bed seat in Business Class, two “throne” seat options, and an upgraded experience in Economy Class including seat-back in-flight entertainment.

Wi-Fi is also available in both cabins, with an unlimited free allowance currently offered for Business Class passengers, as part of a trial.

Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX Business Class seat map

Here are our dedicated articles covering the new cabins, to help you know what to expect on board these reinstated Busan flights.

Do bear in mind that you’ll get a better experience in both cabins on SIA’s larger aircraft compared to the 737 MAX, like on the Airbus A350 Medium Haul and Boeing 787-10 aircraft being used to and from nearby Seoul.

The differences here include direct aisle access in Business Class with a wider seat, while in Economy Class there’s more legroom and recline, plus AC charging sockets, on the wide-body jets.

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This may not make a huge difference on shorter routes, but with these Busan flights clocking in at over 6 hours, the differences are certainly worth noting when you have the alternative choice of heading to Seoul instead.

KrisFlyer redemptions

Here are the KrisFlyer award rates for the Singapore – Busan route, which match those for nearby Seoul services.

KFtrans

KrisFlyer Redemption
Singapore ⇄ Busan
  Saver Advantage
Economy 27,000 45,000
Business 52,000 70,000

If you already hold or intend to book a firm ticket in an eligible Economy booking class, here’s how many miles it will then cost you to upgrade to Business Class, assuming Saver upgrade award availability.

Upgrade using KrisFlyer miles
Singapore ⇄ Busan
Upgrading to This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is SQ-MAX-RJ-Pair-Small-MM.jpg
Business
Existing booking
Economy Standard
(Class: M, H, W)
42,500
Economy Flexi
(Class: Y, B, E)
32,000

As usual, upgrading with miles is not a great deal unless your company is paying for an Economy Flexi fare.

Cash fares are now available on this route, starting at around S$615 return in Economy Class and S$2,290 return in Business Class based on travel in June 2023, however no award seats have been loaded at the time of writing.

Award space is typically added within only a few days of commercial fares, so keep an eye on this if you’re looking to redeem KrisFlyer miles to or from Busan next summer.

South Korea entry process

Back in October 2022, South Korea removed all inbound traveller restrictions, including the unpopular mandatory on-arrival PCR test, for worry-free trips without any vaccination requirements, testing or quarantine – just like the good old days.

This followed a scrapping of the pre-departure COVID-19 test requirement from September 2022, which in turn had happened three months after a removal of the vaccination mandate for travellers to the country, from June 2022.

Visitors to South Korea were required to complete a PCR test at the airport on arrival, but this ceased on 1st October 2022. (Photo: YNA)

Here’s the latest process for those travelling from Singapore (and other countries) quarantine-free to South Korea.

Eligibility & Process
Singapore South Korea

* Not applicable for South Korean citizens or permanent residents

It costs KRW 10,000 (around S$10) to apply for a K-ETA. Once approved, this is valid for multiple entries over the next two years.

Remember there is no requirement to be vaccinated to travel to South Korea, with the country removing this requirement on 8th June 2022, so you don’t need to worry about uploading any certificates or even bringing them along with you.

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For further information, check the embassy guide to quarantine-free Singapore – South Korea travel (though do note this still suggests the Q-code is mandatory – it is not).

The South Korean government encourages all arriving travellers to log their information in the Q-Code system prior to travel, but paper-based alternatives can be used instead, though this may result in a slower arrivals process.

Which routes are left?

Busan becomes the 76th destination across the Singapore Airlines and former SilkAir network to be reinstated since COVID-19, but there are still some cities yet to be added to the list (or not, as the case may be).

Here’s the latest rundown.

  City / Airport
Pending reinstatement
(SIA route)

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  • Guangzhou
  • Moscow
  • Sapporo (seasonal)
Pending reinstatement
(former SilkAir route)

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  • Bandung
  • Mandalay (seasonal)
Transferred to Scoot
(and still pending reinstatement)

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  • Balikpapan
  • Semarang
Discontinued since COVID-19
(no planned reinstatement)
  • Brussels
  • Canberra
  • Dusseldo