This Asian carrier, aiming to be the world's leading digital airline, has just upped capacity to SA

2019-04-01 06:30 - Selene Brophy
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an aerial photo of Singapore connected with techno

(Photo: iStock)

South African travellers have just been given more choice when it comes to travelling to the Asian-Pacific hub of Changi Airport, Singapore.

The first of Singapore Airlines’ three evening flights between OR Tambo International and Singapore took off on Sunday evening. 

The airline has been operating in SA for 27 years and has seen a "growing demand for connectivity to Singapore’s Changi Airport, a gateway to Asia".

It now provides 10 flights a week from Singapore to Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The three additional flights (coded SQ481) will depart from OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings at 10.30pm and arrive at the award-winning Changi Airport at 2.55pm local time.

The return flights from Singapore (coded SQ482) will also depart on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays in the afternoon at 4.35pm local time and arrive in Johannesburg in the evening at 9.10pm local time. 

'Connecting two major regions'

Kian Hwa Chua, Singapore Airlines General Manager for Central and South Africa says the route between Joburg and Changi is a major connector and will boost this air bridge between the two countries, as well as the two key regions being Southern Africa and the Asian Pacific region. 

While Singapore Airlines previously operated out of Durban about 10 years ago, the airline is not looking to resume this route at this point in time.

"Things change and we never say never. We will have to see how these market demands play out. But for now there are no plans," says Chua.

READ: BA launches new direct Durban to London route

'90% on time performance'

Bongiwe Pityi-Vokwana, General Manager of OR Tambo International Airport, fresh off attending the Passenger Terminal Expo at Heathrow, London says successful and long-standing route development remain crucial for Aiports Company South Africa. 

Gauteng’s air access development has been focused on South America and Asia, as a result of poor connectivity levels, she says.  

"These represent half-moon shaped markets for us. In July and August 2018, the airline tested the market adding a weekly evening flight, with huge success – as a result the addition of three evening flights from OR Tambo.

"Continued investment through its A350-900 aircraft and growth in spite of the tough global economic climate, we are seeing Singapore Airlines load factors exceeding the 80% mark, required for an airline to demonstrate profitability.

Pityi-Vokwana also commented on the airline’s efficiency in turn-around time, highlighting its "more than 90% on-time performance for the fiscal 2018/2019 year". 

"Looking at the aircraft dressing, in-flight catering, cleaning and securing, this quick turn-around helps Acsa as an airport operator to use infrastructure optimally, meaning we do no therefore have a carrier that is burdening our infrastructure.

"As OR Tambo we are very proud to celebrate this introduction of three more flight.  

'Aviation safety cannot be taken for granted'

Singapore Airlines, the flag carrier of Singapore based at Changi Airport, has three subsidiaries.

SilkAir operates regional flights to secondary cities, while Scoot and Tigerair operate in the low-cost carrier sector. It is also a Star Alliance member, along with South African Airways.

Singapore was recently one of the first countries to ground the Boeing 737 Max airline after the fatal Ethiopian crash - with Chua stating, "safety is not something to take for granted". The aircraft was in use by its regional carrier SilkAir.

Chua says the Lion Air and Ethiopia Airlines crashes are regrettable.

"All airlines value passengers above all, I think it is very important that we put priority on all our flights operating safely. The recent decision to ground all 737 aircraft in my view it is the right decision. I'm not saying Boeing has done anything wrong, that remains to be seen, as the investigation into the two accidents is ongoing.

"I fully support our Civil Aviation Authority's decision to ground the aircraft until the picture is clearer." 

Three pillars of enhanced passenger experience and service.

Chua says passengers are offered value through its extensive network, offering more than 130 countries across six continents. Choice is also extended through its three airlines and its Star Alliance partnerships.

He states the airline is bringing its passengers the latest in product development, expressing delight in the deployment of the next-gen, fuel-efficient A350-900 aircraft on the enhanced Joburg route.  

He highlights that the aircraft has its "latest business class, premium and economy seating configurations - with extensive choice of in-flight entertainment and latest amenities". 

READ: How smart, connected planes are making air travel safer and more fun

Digital transformation is also at the forefront of the airline's services aiming to enhance the customer experience, says Chua. 

"We recently set up a digital lab called KrisLab, which will test and explore projects around artificial intelligence, virtual reality, data analytics and blockchain technologies.

Last year Singapore stoked its ambition to be the world's leading digital airline, by launching a blockchain-based digital wallet called Krispay for its Krisflyer frequent-flyer members.   

Flying one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the world to destinations spanning a network spread over six continents, Chua says another long-standing offering is the exceptional service offered by the airline's  Singapore Girls.   

"We believe a warm and hospitable service is what distinguishes us as an Asian airline. Our Singapore Girls work very hard and go to great pains to acknowledge every customer and customise the service to each individual on board. 

Overall Chua says, “We have listened to our customers and travel trade partners’ requests to increase capacity on this route."

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In addition, we are able to offer more extensive travel options and seamless connectivity through our Singapore hub for customers travelling to destinations in the Asia-Pacific region such as Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand and Thailand.” 

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