Singapore Airlines slashes 96% of capacity, including world’s longest flight

Mar 24, 2020

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Singapore Airlines flights will grind to a virtual halt by the end of the month, making it the latest global carrier to suspend most of its operation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The carrier announced on Monday, 23 March, that it would cut 96% of its capacity, temporarily grounding 138 of its 147 aircraft. Similarly, Singapore said its low-cost affiliate Scoot would also suspend most of its network, taking 47 of the unit’s 49 planes out of service indefinitely.

Among the reductions that appear to be included in the temporary cuts is the airline’s nonstop service between Newark and Singapore that had been the world’s longest regularly scheduled commercial flight since it resumed in October 2018.

The capacity reduction at Singapore Airlines comes after the city-state it calls home moved on Sunday to bar most foreign visitors from entering or transiting through Changi Airport, the nation’s airport and home to Singapore Airlines’ hub.

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Singapore Airlines noted that with no domestic services in the small country, it and Scoot are “more vulnerable when international markets increasingly restrict the free movement of people or ban air travel altogether”.

The carrier joins a growing list of large airlines that have been forced to halt most of their operations during the pandemic. Among those is Emirates – the world’s largest carrier of international passengers – which is suspending all flights for two weeks after its home country of the United Arab Emirates enacted a two-week flight ban that takes effect on Wednesday, 25 March.

Singapore said it was “unclear” when it would be able to resume normal services, citing “uncertainty as to when the stringent border controls will be lifted,” though a list of flight cuts posted to its website showed some cancellations on some routes extending into summer.

“Even during this crisis, our customers and staff remain our top priority. We continue to focus on getting as many of our passengers as possible back home safely and protecting the jobs of our people”, Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said in a statement. “I would like to thank SIA Group staff for their commitment and sacrifices during this extremely challenging time.

More: Some airlines have completely suspended service during coronavirus pandemic

“I would also like to apologize to our customers, and thank them for their patience and understanding, as we grapple with this unprecedented situation,” he added. “We have more than doubled the handling capacity at our service centers and sales offices to help as many people as possible, as soon as possible”.

A check of Singapore Airlines’ website showed no U.S. flights on sale beyond 30 March.

In normal times, Singapore’s schedule includes service from six U.S. airports: Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), New York-JFK, Newark Liberty (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA).

From the U.S., the carrier operates a few “fifth freedom” routes – such as New York JFK-Frankfurt and San Francisco-Hong Kong – as well a few nonstops to Singapore. Among those are the Newark-Singapore nonstop and new service from Seattle that launched in September 2019.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

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