Singapore Airlines is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. David Lim, general manager India, Singapore Airlines, who has been with the airline for almost three decades, and completes a year in India, speaks about the strategic importance of the India market and some significant differentiators as an airline
What, according to you, have been the key milestones as far as the India market is concerned in the recent years?
It has been three years since A380 operations started, we were the first in India, with two cities at the same time. After that we refurbished our A380 to include premium economy class in 2015 (in Delhi), and Jan 2016 in Mumbai. We have seen increase in services in the last three years. In the SIA group, we have two other brands, apart from SilkAir – Tiger and Scoot, all of them are here and increasing flights. In SIA group, in total we have upto 150 weekly services for India across 15 destinations. We cover one of the biggest footprints in India by any foreign carrier. We see the India market as very vibrant.
Are Indian passengers still very keen to travel by your A380s? We know that it has not worked for some airlines.
It is nearly three years since we introduced A380 and people are still finding the novelty of travelling by our A380. I would think that our A380 is different from other A380s. We focus a lot on comfort and the one thing that provides a lot of comfort apart from the service and the crew is the space. When you look at any aircraft type that we have, like A380, we have only 441 seats, other airlines can have upto 600 seats. So when you compare every aircraft type between airlines, ours has less seat count which means we are giving more space for passengers. Customers realise this. In 777 economy class we have nine seats in a row, but almost all major airlines have 10 seats.
Are the premium economy seats you have introduced getting more traction?
Yes, people value more space and in premium economy A380 night flights they can sleep better. They are increasingly opting for premium economy.
Have you introduced new routes or frequencies in this market or are planning to do so in 2017?
We have recently increased frequency to Ahmedabad to four times a week, and hope to increase further. During peak period we will introduce more services. For instance, for Kolkata during Puja, we put in more capacity. As an airline we should be there to meet the demands of the market.
This year we are likely to deploy the A350 aircraft to India, probably for Mumbai and in third quarter of this year. We received the A350 aircraft in early last year and we have been flying them on long haul routes. This aircraft is quite luxurious, we have only 253 seats. We used it to start our new Singapore – San Francisco non stop service last October. It is important for the India market, it enables us to carry Indian customers (one stop), to the West Coast of USA.
In India, we have the advantage of having partners like Vistara and Air India which is a Star Alliance member, so we have the country almost covered. While there are no plans of new destinations, the focus is on increasing frequencies between Singapore and the metros.
Any new promotions or campaigns planned for your 70th anniversary?
One of the highlights this year is that Singapore Airlines is celebrating its 70th anniversary. We started operations in 1947. We will be mounting some promotions to stimulate the market even more. These will be global promotion campaigns. Outside of that there are promotions every two-three months, for instance the recent Australia promotion.