(May 19): Business travel is returning for Singapore Airlines Ltd, with forward bookings accounting for a similar proportion of ticket sales as before the Covid pandemic, now that border restrictions have been lifted.
"Since April of this year, when Singapore fully opened its borders, we have seen a strong rebound in corporate travel," the carrier's executive vice president of commercial operations, Lee Lik Hsin, said at a briefing Thursday.
Lee was speaking the day after Singapore Airlines released annual results that showed its net loss narrowed to S$125 million (US$90 million) in the second half through March. Demand has improved in all cabin classes as key markets — apart from China — remove travel curbs, the airline said, a point echoed by Lee.
"The momentum that we are seeing in our forward bookings is coming across all customer segments," he said, adding the airline expects strong passenger growth this year.
The carrier said inflation, particularly fuel prices, remains a concern. That weighed on its shares Thursday morning, when they slid as much as 2.8%, the most since Feb 24. They eventually closed down 0.9%. After some gradual loosening from September, Singapore further relaxed its border restrictions in April, so that fully-vaccinated people from anywhere in the world can enter without quarantine or Covid testing. Singapore Airlines' passenger traffic last month reached 1.45 million, the highest since the start of the pandemic, and 72.7% of its seats were filled.
Singapore Airlines' fuel costs climbed to S$1.38 billion in the second half of the fiscal year, as it operated more flights. Sales more than doubled in the period to S$4.79 billion.
The flag carrier has hedged 40% of its fuel needs until June next year at an average of US$60 a barrel. The average price of Brent in January-March was about US$97 a barrel, pushed higher by sanctions on Russia for its war in Ukraine.
Passenger traffic at Singapore's Changi Airport has risen to more than 40% of pre-Covid levels this month, from less than 20% in March, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said Tuesday. The government aims for the airport to handle at least 50% of pre-pandemic visitor numbers later this year.
Singapore Airlines has been hiring cabin crew, as it expects to operate 67% of pre-Covid capacity by September and serve over 70% of its destinations.
After meeting with Malaysian government officials in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said on Thursday that the two countries hope to restore flights to pre-Covid levels of about 500 a week in the coming months, up from about 40% of that figure now.
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