Singapore Airlines is planning so-called 'flights to nowhere' – trips that start and end at the same airport – in an attempt to boost its grounded passenger business, the Straits Times reported Friday, citing unidentified people.
The flights from Changi airport are slated to take place by the end of October and may be bundled with staycations at the city’s hotels, shopping vouchers and limousine ferry rides, according to the report.
Stricter travel rules to control the spread of Covid-19 pandemic have battered the aviation industry worldwide, with carriers such as Singapore Airlines hit particularly hard because they don’t operate domestic flights. The International Air Transport Association doesn’t expect passenger traffic to recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
Singapore Airlines isn’t the first to offer trips whose destination is the airport from which it departed. Last month, Japan’s ANA sold tickets for a charter flight to nowhere, while two Taiwan carriers launched similar campaigns – Starlux Airlines introduced a “pretending to go abroad” journey and EVA Air filled all 309 seats on a special Father’s Day flight.
Singapore Airlines’ plan comes after a survey by Singapore Air Charter showed 75% of the 308 participants were willing to buy tickets on these types of flights, according to the Straits Times report.
Singapore’s flag carrier said last week that it is eliminating 20% of its workforce despite raising about S$11 billion through loans and a rights issue in June, and receiving aid from a government job-support program. The job losses are the first at Singapore Airlines since the SARS outbreak in 2003.
Unlike many of its peers, Singapore Airlines initially managed to resist job cuts, though some staff were redeployed to work in hospitals, social services and on Singapore’s transport network.
It also imposed a hiring freeze in March and offered early retirement and voluntary redundancies that eliminated some 1,900 positions. As a result, the potential cuts across the group have been reduced to about 2,400, the airline said Thursday.
Singapore Airlines is also reviewing its fleet size and network. In July, it agreed with Airbus to defer deliveries of some aircraft and reschedule some payments, while it is in similar talks with Boeing.
Any further delay in the arrival of Singapore Airlines' Boeing 777-9 jets, which have already been pushed back from Boeing's previous 2021 timeline, will also have a domino effect on the launch of Singapore Airlines' new generation of first class and business class.
The Star Alliance member's current Boeing 777 first and business class were launched in 2013, which means they'll be at least a decade old by the time the 777-9 versions hit the stage.
Sliding privacy doors have been suggested as a key feature of Singapore Airlines' new Boeing 777X first class suites, which airline CEO Goh Choon Phong has previously promised "will be a first class that we believe when we launch (it) will again set industry standards."
Goh has also talked up his plans for the Boeing 777-9 business class, saying a "quantum leap" is in store.
Additional reporting by David Flynn
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