Goh Choon Phong, CEO of Singapore Airlines, has expressed his excitement about the potential of India as a significant hub for the airline’s expansion plans. Singapore Airlines aims to establish a second home in India due to its enormous growth potential. The airline is expected to acquire a 25.1% stake in Air India, a deal that is set to be finalized in March.
During the pandemic, Singapore Airlines faced significant challenges due to its reliance on international travel and the absence of a domestic market. At its lowest point in April and May 2020, the airline operated at merely 3% of its pre-pandemic capacity, flying fewer than 11,000 passengers per month. Consequently, Singapore Airlines recognizes the vulnerabilities associated with being a carrier from a small country.
The Air India deal is the culmination of a series of transactions. Air India, historically an underperformer among its Asian counterparts, began its privatization process in 2022. Subsequently, Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons, who had been operating the Indian airline Vistara since 2015, announced a merger between Vistara and Air India in late 2022. Once the merger is completed in March, Air India is expected to become the second largest airline in India, second only to budget carrier IndiGo.
India represents a valuable market for Singapore Airlines, being the last major untapped market in Asia. With China mostly inaccessible to outside carriers and Indonesia already dominated by major players, India offers immense potential. Last year, India saw a 73% increase in domestic and international air travel, with over 327 million passengers expected to fly. Additionally, Singapore has traditionally served as a hub for Indian travelers to international destinations.
Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier, Scoot, will play a crucial role in connecting passengers from smaller Indian airports to Singapore. Scoot primarily operates narrow-body planes and will receive nine 122-seater E190-E2 aircraft from Embraer to efficiently serve these routes. By leveraging its expertise and resources, Singapore Airlines aims to bolster Air India’s reputation and transform it into one of the leading airlines in Asia.
Goh Choon Phong’s long-term vision for Singapore Airlines has been evident throughout the pandemic, as he navigated the challenges and ensured the airline’s survival. By making India its second home, Singapore Airlines is positioning itself for long-term growth in a rapidly expanding market.
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