In May this year Singapore Airlines confirmed what aviation analysts had been suspecting for a while- that it would be merging SilkAir into its parent brand. The merger is expected to take place after in 2020, after the SilkAir fleet undergoes a $100M “major cabin upgrade“. This will see lie-flat seats added in Business Class and IFE installed across all cabins.
Ahead of the merger, there’s a need to review SilkAir’s route network for profitability. We’re seeing the results of that this morning as Singapore Airlines announced that 17 SilkAir routes would be transferred to low cost carrier Scoot. To put things in perspective, SilkAir currently flies to 49 destinations, so this represents roughly a third of their total network.
Which routes are being transferred?
Here are the 17 routes that will be transferred to Scoot:
The table below summarizes when the routes will be transferred. Customers who have made bookings on the affected routes will have the option to switch to other flights with Scoot, SIA or SilkAir where possible, or get a refund.
|Date of transfer||Routes|
|May to October 2019 (May to June 2019 for China)||
|May to July 2020||
These transfers also obviously mean the end of Business Class on these routes, which will now be operated on all economy Scoot flights.
What does this mean for KrisFlyer members?
On the surface, the route reassignments appear to be bad news for KrisFlyer members, in the sense that they now have fewer destinations to redeem miles for. You can use your KrisFlyer miles to pay for Scoot flights, but the “cashback” value is so bad (just under 1 cent) that I’d never advise you to.
But the thing is- these destinations are already served by numerous low cost carriers (probably why SQ decided to swap them to Scoot), so you’d be hard-pressed to justify redeeming precious miles on such a short flight anyway. Here’s the 17 destinations with their current round-trip cost in terms of miles (you can occasionally redeem them for less during Spontaneous Escapes):
Assuming you value your miles at 2 cents each, then these are roughly the prices you’d need to beat in order to be better off by buying a revenue ticket:
Even after you account for low cost carrier add ons, you should be able to beat these prices for most destinations. This would probably bite the most for North Asia flights, but you should be well covered for South East Asia.
I’d actually argue that this move actually hurts overseas-based KrisFlyer members the most, especially those who were thinking of exploring other parts of South East Asia. A KrisFlyer member in London, for example, could route LHR-SIN-BPN for the same number of miles as LHR-SIN. Ditto a KrisFlyer member in San Francisco, or Sydney. These fliers will now have to shell out separately for a connecting ticket.
I’m just glad that SilkAir is maintaining service to relatively high cost (in terms of distance to price ratio) destinations like Koh Samui, because that’s where you get the best value for your miles. That said, there is the question of what happens when the A319s leave the fleet, because the Koh Samui airport won’t be able to take any of the 737s that SilkAir operates. Even if the A319s are transferred to Scoot, I doubt Bangkok Airways (which owns the airport) would take kindly to a low cost carrier moving in.
Scoot is cancelling service to Honolulu, along with other routes
Well, that de-escalated quickly. After launching flights to HNL via KIX back in December 2017, Scoot has decided to cancel the route barely a year later, citing “weak demand”. The route will be cancelled from June 2019.
Hawaii has always been a problematic destination for Singapore Airlines, who have never quite figured out how to make the route work. Did you know that back in the day, SQ used to fly to Honolulu? It’s true! In the 1980s you could fly a 747 on SIN-HKG-HNL-SFO or SIN-TPE-HNL-LAX. HNL was eventually dropped from the network in 1992.
Now it’s Scoot’s turn to find the route economically nonviable, and not for want of trying. Honolulu will never be a business hub, but leisure demand alone isn’t strong enough for a straight flight from Singapore. Therefore the viability of the route was always dependent on Scoot’s ability to find a stopover point where it could pick up 5th freedom passengers.
Given the Japanese affinity for Honolulu and popularity of Osaka among Singapore travelers, SIN-KIX-HNL seemed a good bet, but I guess the cancellation speaks for itself. KIX-HNL will continue to be served by other carriers including Scoot’s low cost rival AirAsia X.
In addition to Honolulu, SilkAir will also be cancelling service to Bengaluru (May 2019), Chennai (May 2020), Shenzhen (June 2019), and Kochi (October 2019).
Fewer destinations for miles might sound like a bad thing for KrisFlyer members, but if you’re based in Singapore you’re unlikely to notice the difference.
There’s still a lot to do before SilkAir can be merged into Singapore Airlines, and one wonders if we’ll see any more route transfers or even new routes in the months to come. SilkAir will also be receiving more 737 MAX 8 jets in 2019, and it’s an open question as to whether those will come with SQ livery, or what the cabin interiors will look like. If the plan is to outfit the entire SilkAir fleet with lie-flat beds, it does seem a waste to fit the aircraft in 2019 only to refit it barely a year later.
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