Flag carrier Singapore Airlines said last week that border controls and travel restrictions remained in place in many parts of the world as countries look to curb the spread of COVID-19, causing its traffic in March to fall by 90 percent. Although many key markets have started the mass roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations, the recovery in international travel demand continued to remain depressed in March 2021. Year-on-year, the SIA Group’s passenger capacity (measured in available seat-kilometres) for March contracted by 56.3 percent. Overall passenger carriage (measured in revenue passenger-kilometres) was lower by 90.2 percent, resulting in a group passenger load factor (PLF) of 12.8 percent, a decline of 44.6 percentage points year-on-year.
Singapore Airlines’ capacity was 50.8 percent lower than last year. Passenger carriage was down by 88.9 percent, resulting in a PLF decline of 43.1 percentage points to 12.6 percent. Compared to the previous month, the airline expanded its network from 41 destinations (including Singapore) in February to 47 destinations as at the end of March, largely due to the transfer of narrow-body destinations (Chongqing, Male, Phnom Penh and Phuket) from SilkAir to the Singapore Airlines, as well as the re-introduction of flights to Haneda and the opening of sales to Yangon.
SilkAir’s passenger carriage dropped 92.9 percent year-on-year, against a 92.3 percent cut in capacity. This led to a 4.2 percentage point decline in PLF to 48.2 percent. SilkAir re-introduced operations to Cebu during the month. Following the progressive transfer of services to Singapore Airlines, SilkAir operated flights to only five destinations (Cebu, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, Medan and Singapore) as at the end of March.
Scoot’s passenger carriage fell by 95.9 percent year-on-year against a contraction in capacity of 75.8 percent, resulting in a 57.7 percentage point decline in PLF to 11.8 percent. Scoot served 18 destinations (including Singapore) as at the end of March, with the re-instatement of flights to Perth. Operations to South Asia and Europe remained suspended.
SIA Cargo registered a monthly cargo load factor (CLF) of 92.3 percent, which was 24.1 percentage points higher year-on-year, as cargo traffic (measured in freight tonne kilometres) rose marginally by 0.8 percent on the back of a capacity contraction of 25.5 percent. All route regions continued to record year-on-year increases in CLF during the month.
As vaccination programmes across the world gain momentum and the Northern Summer travel season commences, the Group remains hopeful for a measured recovery in international air travel demand. At the end of March 2021, Group capacity reached 23 percent of pre-COVID levels, lower than our earlier expectation of around 25 percent. The group’s passenger capacity is expected to be around 27 percent of pre-Covid levels by June 2021, based on modest growth of the passenger network in the coming months. Singapore Airlines will re-instate services to Denpasar from May. Scoot will re-introduce services to Macau in April, and Cebu, Clark, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu in May. The progressive transfer of narrow-body routes from SilkAir to Singapore Airlines is on track.