Scoot plans to spread wings further

Singapore Airlines' long-haul budget arm Scoot plans to expand its fleet from eight to 12 planes by March 2017, and add at least six new destinations by the end of next year.

The carrier, which has bought 20 Boeing 787 aircraft - all to be delivered by 2019 - is also mulling over a new aircraft order, said chief executive officer Campbell Wilson.

He said: "We have not made any decisions yet, and it is premature to speculate, but we do see lots of opportunities in this region."

The wholly-owned SIA unit has also just set up a new company, SNAB, to undertake marketing and information technology services.

Mr Wilson, who spoke to The Straits Times recently, said it was premature to discuss details, but added that the new firm plans to serve the airline industry.

As part of expansion plans, the airline will make a foray into the Middle East, taking over an existing Singapore-Dubai-Jeddah service from SIA and offering non-stop flights from Singapore to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from May next year.

"This is a mainly economy-class route and we are confident that our non-stop service will attract travellers, primarily Muslim pilgrims," Mr Wilson said.

Scoot currently offers flights to 17 destinations, including Hangzhou, which was launched on Sunday, and Melbourne, with flights slated to start in the coming weeks.

Mr Wilson did not say where else the carrier plans to fly to, though he did add that India is on the radar.

Scoot, which launched services in June 2012, is a key part of SIA's strategy to gain a foothold in the growing low-cost market.

While it has yet to make money - which is not unexpected for a young airline - it has had a good run.

The airline carries an average of 200,000 passengers a month and fills more than eight in 10 seats.

There are big plans to work closely with SIA's other arms, especially budget carrier Tigerair, to drive cost efficiencies and improve the customer experience.

Facilitating convenient transfers at Changi Airport for travellers is a key focus. Up to 20 per cent of Scoot's passengers today are transit travellers, a number which is expected to increase, said Mr Wilson.

Scoot and Tigerair also intend to merge their reservations systems in the first quarter of next year. This will make it convenient for customers to buy tickets and other services across both airlines.

Each airline's call centre will also be able to deal with customers from the other carrier.

Both carriers have also signed a joint ground handling contract with Sats for passenger, baggage and cargo handling at Changi Airport.

Singapore-based analyst Brendan Sobie of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation said: "Scoot is going through an exciting period of rapid growth... The growth is key as it gives the airline scale and allows for diversification of the network.

"Scoot is only starting to scratch the surface, particularly when taking into account network opportunities once the partnership with Tigerair becomes fully implemented".

This article was first published on Oct 31, 2015.
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