Singapore Airlines eyes 5th flight from Manila


By Imee Charlee C. Delavin | BusinessWorld Online

SINGAPORE AIRLINES (SIA) sees the Philippines as one of its “key” markets, citing its robust economic growth which would attract both inbound and outbound passengers in the country.

Anticipating passenger growth, SIA Regional Vice-President for Southeast Asia Philip Go said the carrier is bent on adding a fifth flight from Manila as it sees opportunity to expand in other areas outside the metropolis to strengthen its presence in the country.

“I think the [Philippine] economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world, I think the forecast is a 6-plus percent in the next four years so there’s a lot going forward for Philippines... So we see Philippines as one of the key markets we fly to in this region, because of the strong economy, there’ll be a lot of inbound [traffic] as well which is why I said we would like to fly the 5th (flight) as soon as we can,” Mr. Go said in a recent media roundtable.

The Philippine economy is projected to grow 6.5-7.5% for 2017. The government also aims to spur growth to 7-8% from 2018-2022 after the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a three-year high in 2016 at 6.8%, closer to the higher end of the government’s 6-7% target last year.

“We’re looking also at opportunities outside, other than Manila... We’ve already started our operations in Kalibo [through SilkAir]. We will continue to see if there are other destinations in the Philippines we should be expanding to, besides Manila,” Mr. Go added.

Currently, Singapore Airlines operates four daily flights on the Manila to Singapore route, while its sister airline SilkAir has thrice a week flights from Kalibo to Singapore. It also flies nine times per week from Davao, 12 times a week from Cebu and its budget carrier subsidiary Tiger Airways mounts flights from Clark to Singapore.

Singapore Airlines already expressed to regulators its interest for additional flight from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) but is constrained by the current lack of slots available at the country’s main gateway.

Meanwhile, Mr. Go said Singapore Airlines could consider flying from other airports in the country but accessibility and infrastructure are “main considerations.”

The Philippine government earlier announced it is looking to develop other airports outside Metro Manila in a bid to decongest the NAIA.

“I suppose access is a key one, it should be easily accessible by bulk of passengers coming. A lot of people come to Manila on business, so you don’t want them to travel a very long distance... People traveling from here to overseas should also easily get there, so if there’s good transport routes to key metropolitan areas -- highways, trains -- those are the key [factors],” the regional head at SIA added.

“I suppose we don’t want to say that we’ll never do it but at the moment, we don’t have plans to operate in other airports other than NAIA because split operation is very inefficient,” Mr. Go further said.

The Singapore Airlines official also said the aviation industry could face a better year compared to 2016, brought by uncertainties caused by the “Brexit,” rate hike fears and the US presidential elections.“Just in general, last year was a challenging year, a lot of things happened last year -- in Europe, by large European operations are more difficult... But it is a general industry experience, we’re not alone in experiencing the sort of softening of the market. The global business environment in 2016 was a bit soft, oil and gas as we all know was not doing well. Companies are also struggling a bit so for airlines concentrating on this kind of industry, we are not alone.”

“Going forward, this year and the year after, a lot depends on what happens in the US, UK and other parts of Europe but as we speak, oil companies are back up, so we think while it will still be challenging, if we come up with the right strategy, the right products, then we’ll be okay,” Mr. Go added.