Well well well.
On Wednesday I wrote about how “flycations” might soon become a thing in Singapore, with a local aircraft charter firm called SAC conducting some market research on the topic. A (partially-completed) website has been set up, with launch prices of S$288 and S$688 for Economy and Business Class seats respectively.
Under a charter arrangement, the charter company would pay a fixed fee to “borrow” one of Singapore Airlines’ aircraft, with flight crew and pilots provided by the airline. They’d then pocket the difference between whatever they raised in ticket sales, minus the charter fee and associated operating costs.
But it now appears like Singapore Airlines may be planning to go it alone.
Are Singapore Airlines’ flights to nowhere starting in October?
A Milelion reader shared a screenshot of the following email in the Telegram Group. This was apparently sent to a number of Singapore Airlines’ corporate clients, giving them priority access to reserve tickets for an inaugural flight on 17 October 2020.
Based on my discussions with a couple of folks in the industry, it’s my understanding this is almost certainly going ahead; it’s just a question of when.
Assuming this is true, what else can we glean from this email?
- The flight will be 3-4 hours in duration
- It will be a recurring thing (the email talks about weekly flights)
- Singapore Airlines will be operating and marketing these flights
- Proceeds from the inaugural flight will be donated to charity
When will this be announced?
As you’ve probably heard by now, Singapore Airlines has announced plans to retrench at least 2,400 employees, as the downturn in air travel caused by COVID-19 shows no sign of abating.
It’s a sobering reminder that while some of us may be relatively insulated from pandemic’s financial impact and have the disposable income to spend on an airplane joyride, there are others who are much worse off.
Given what’s happening, my guess is that they’ll wait a few weeks before making any sort of announcement.
I reached out to Singapore Airlines for a comment, and got this response:
Singapore Airlines is considering several initiatives that would allow us to continue engaging both our customers and members of the public. We will make an announcement at the appropriate time if we go ahead with these plans.
What’s my take on this?
I get that there are those who are vehemently opposed to the idea of flights to nowhere. “It’s bad for the environment”/ “It’s peak capitalism” are two of the common responses.
With regards to the environmental angle, I think one commenter in the previous post hit the nail on the head when he/she said you could equally make the same comment about pleasure cruises. In fact, according to the New York Times, the most efficient cruise ships emit 3 to 4 times more carbon dioxide per passenger-mile than a jet. Two wrongs don’t make a right, of course, but I think the outrage should at least be consistent.
Moreover, these flights aren’t anywhere close to becoming a daily affair. They’ll be novelty items, run once a week for a few months and then discontinued. Singapore Airlines has already cut thousands of flights, and in absolute terms, the additional pollution from flights to nowhere is going to be negligible (and dwarfed by the reduction in pollution due to the cancellation of scheduled flights).
So it seems to me that the damage here is more ideological than actual, and in any case, given Singapore Airlines’ commitment to environmental sustainability, I’m sure they’ll announce some scheme or other to offset the environmental impact of these flights.
With regards to the peak capitalism critique, well, flights to nowhere are no doubt frivolous in the sense that you don’t need them. But (ignoring the environmental aspect, already addressed above) how is it any different from a staycation, or going to the movies, or any other form of recreational spending? Ultimately, people on these flights are not solving for getting from Point A to Point A. They’re purchasing entertainment, and if getting on a plane happens to amuse them, then so be it.
My take is I’d absolutely sign up for one. While let’s not pretend that any of us are doing these flights for altruistic reasons, if the incremental revenue generated helps save even a couple more jobs down the line, why not?
I also think that Singapore Airlines’ PR team is playing this smart by donating the inaugural flight proceeds to charity. That might help offset a few of the initial negative reactions, and add a feel-good gloss to the whole thing.
While these flights to nowhere are unlikely to be a big money-maker for Singapore Airlines, I do think there’ll be a pretty enthusiastic response nonetheless. Similar flights in Taiwan and Brunei have sold like hotcakes, and there are dozens, DOZENS of us#Avgeeks out there.
Watch this space.