SIA’s another affiliate scooting into India; will connect three destinations before May end

Aviation observers are somewhat perplexed with Scoot. A subsidiary of global aviation major Singapore Airlines (SIA) which came into existence just three and a half years ago, it proudly calls itself a low cost carrier (LCC). The irony is: it does not have any attribute of a LCC, the parameters which typically define them. LCCs operate narrow body aircrafts but Scoot’s fleet has nothing less than Dreamliners. And unlike LCCs, it operates on medium to long-haul routes. The only salvaging factor for its LCC brand emphasis is in its fares which are at least 15 percent cheaper than the full service carriers (FSCs).

Airlines (SIA)Scoot which has a fleet size of 10 Dreamliners covering 18 destinations across the globe (its primary destinations are: Australia, China, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea) is now all set to have India on its global network map. This would mark the commencement of operations of the fourth brand of SIA family. Apart from SIA as a full service carrier, the other two brands of the group – Silk Air and Tiger Air – already have an operational base in India. “We are planning to come to India hopefully by the next month. We have applied to the DGCA for rights and we have three cities on the radar, both metro cities and tier 2 cities in south and north India. We hope to start the operations by 20th March which will be just at the beginning of the summer schedule,” Bharat Mahadevan, Country head (India), Scoot told Tourism First in a recent exclusive conversation.  He, however, refused to divulge the name of the destinations in India where Scoot will be flying in its debut spell. “All I can tell you right now is that after launching our inaugural service in India next month, we will be adding two more destinations before May end. While two destinations would be in the northern India, one destination would be in the southern market,” Mahadevan said while hinting that the possible destinations will not include Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru since the existing entitlements in these cities have been exhausted.

Airlines (SIA)Scoot India management is exuding confidence that the commencement of its service would broaden the profile of SIA in terms of its offerings to the Indian market which is a global strategic point on its network. “There is a synergy between what SIA and its subsidiaries have to offer. Singapore Airlines is full service, wide body entity; Tiger is our low-cost, short haul airline which operates narrow body aircrafts; Silk Air operates full service, narrow body and we are a low-cost, wide body airline providing connectivity to the medium and long-haul. So in a cumulative sense, we can cover all segment of travellers at different pricing points,” Mahadevan emphasised while adding that its fare structure would be quite attractive for Indian travellers. “We will be offering fares which will be 15 to 50 percent lower than full service carriers. Our competition will be with Air India and Jet on sectors in the larger Asia-Pacific region.” Scoot is also hopeful that when it commences operations in India, it will get ample feeding support from domestic carrier Vistara which is also part of the Singapore Airlines group.

Airlines (SIA)In precise operational terms, Scoot presently operates between Singapore and Sydney, Gold Coast, Bangkok, Taipei, Tokyo, Tianjin, Shenyang, Nanjing, Qingdao, Seoul, Hong Kong, Perth, Osaka, Kaohsiung, Hangzhou, Melbourne and Guangzhou – making up a fast-growing network across eight countries and territories. In the near-run, apart from India, the carrier is also launching a service to the Middle-East. “We are adding Singapore- Jeddah route in May which will mark our foray in the Gulf region. We are also looking at more long-haul routes as our fleet expands in the next few years,” informed Mahadevan. The all exclusive Dreamliner fleet carrier is adding two more aircrafts this year and will get eight more Dreamliners in the next four years which will take its total tally to 20.

Tourism is a strong component in selecting Indian destinations

While Scoot India country head is keeping his cards close to his chest in terms of divulging the name of the destinations in India where Scoot would touch down in its debut spell, he did subtly indicate the driving factors in selecting the locations. And here tourism seems to be a major consideration for the Scoot management. 

“During our short history, we have emerged as a preferred carrier for business travellers,​ given our ability to offer them long-haul service in a wide-body aircraft at a relatively lower cost. So that is one, we would like to begin with destinations​,​ where business traveller footfall is high. We are also looking at destinations where we can ​benefit from​ the huge amount of inbound tourism​ potential of the city​. There is a buzz about India and its tourism products and, therefore, we may choose tourism destinations which are already huge in India but not served by any direct flight with Singapore,” Mahadevan pointed out. Going by ​these​ hints dropped by Scoot India country head, Jaipur​,​ which is a tourism powerhouse in the country​,​ seems to be a strong probability for being included in the list of the carrier’s debut destinations in India. Presently, no carrier from​ the​ SIA ​family​ is flying to the ​Pink​ ​C​ity and as per Scoot’s plans, it will cover two destinations in North India.

When it comes to tourism specific consideration​s​ in Scoot’s scheme of things for India, growing outbound is also a key driving factor. It is no secret to anybody that outbound growth from India is much​ more​ robust than the inbound numbers and in Scoot’s global network, there are some distinctive destinations where Indian tourists footfall has shown a consistent rise in recent years. “We will be giving Indian tourists the option to fly to destinations in Australia at cheaper ​price​. Similarly with us they will find convenient options to fly to Japan or South Korean destinations with our hub in Singapore. Indian outbound tourists will also be a prime target for us,” Mahadevan emphasised.

SIA’s positioning to get a further boost with Scoot’s arrival in India

Scoot has been the only remaining member of the SIA fold which ​does not have a presence yet​ in India. And that it is ready to finally touch down in India, its arrival is slated to give a major boost to SIA positioning in India – a market which the group has always described as strategically important in its global network.

According to Mahadevan, the inclusion of Scoot will significantly enhance the positioning of SIA as a group​,​ in terms of volume of airports from where the company can provide direct international flying options to Indian travellers. “Currently, SIA and its two affliates, Silk Air and Tiger Air, are covering 12 destinations in the country. With the launch of our flights, Singapore Airlines group will connect fifteen destinations in India. This will be second only to Air India which flies on international sectors from more cities,” he added. On a cumulative basis, SIA and ​its​ group ​airlines​ are covering Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Thiruvantpuram, Chennai, Kolkatta, Lucknow, Kochi, Tiruchirappali and Vizag​, jointly​ covering them with 100 plus weekly frequency. “ In terms of frequency too, our size will grow quite modestly as we are planning three to four weekly flights at our destinations where we will be flying in the initial spell,” he pointed out.

However, while in terms of destination count on international sectors, SIA may steal a march over others in its combined form; when it comes to weekly frequency, it will still be behind ​some​ foreign carriers. For instance, strongly positioned Emirates cover​s​ 10 destinations in India with a staggering weekly frequency of 180 flights. Sharjah-based Air Arabia too has quite an expansive reach in India – 12 destinations and 116 weekly frequency. Jet Airways and Etihad combine are presently connecting Abu Dhabi to 14 Indian cities, with over 200 return flights each week.

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