Scoot chief financial officer Vinod Kannan says he expects the Australian market to be a significant source of passengers for the low-cost carrier’s (LCC) expansion in Europe with upcoming flights to Berlin.
The Singapore Airlines-owned Scoot plans to commence Singapore-Berlin flights – which will be one of the longest routes operated by an LCC – on June 20.
The route will be served four times a week with Boeing 787-8s featuring 18 seats in the forward Scootbiz cabin and 311 economy seats at nine abreast for a total of 329. The aircraft also has eight crew rest bunks.
The only other one-stop, single-carrier option for Australians headed to Berlin is Qatar Airways from Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney via Doha. There were also a number of one-stop, multiple carrier options in the market.
The launch of nonstop flights to Berlin represents Scoot’s second European destination, having commenced Singapore-Athens in June 2017.
Kannan says Australia has been a key source market for Scoot’s Athens flights and he expects travellers from this country to again support the upcoming Berlin service.
“It’s just the psyche of the Australian traveller,” Kannan told Australian Aviation in an interview during a recent visit to Sydney to promote the Berlin route.
“They do like to do things that are unique, different. They like to travel and they do like to see value propositions and they take it and they are not afraid to try new things.
“Putting it all together we think Australia is going to be a significant contributor for both these routes and so that’s the reason why we want to shout out loud about Berlin especially in these markets.”
Figures from aviation thinktank CAPA – Centre for Aviation indicated Australian point-of-sale bookings account for about 15 per cent of bookings on Scoot’s Singapore-Athens service. Australia was expected to be about 10 per cent of bookings for Berlin, CAPA’s Blue Swan Daily website said in a research note in March.
In Australia, Scoot serves the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney from its Singapore hub. Every route is operated by Boeing 787-8s or 787-9s.
The LCC has in recent times tweaked its Melbourne and Sydney schedules in order to facilitate more convenient connections to and from its upcoming Berlin flights.
Scoot plans to boost Melbourne to daily from June 2018, from five times weekly currently, and introduce a split schedule of four afternoon departures and three evening departures a week from Melbourne. Similarly, flights from Singapore to Melbourne have been scheduled as an overnight service four times a week and a day flight three times a week.
The airline already has a split schedule in place on Singapore-Sydney, with Scoot’s flights taking off from Sydney at either 1200 or 2045, while its Singapore-Sydney flights depart at either 0130 or 1005.
Scoot’s two European flights are scheduled as an overnight service from Singapore, taking off a little after midnight. Flights from Athens and Berlin land back in Singapore in the early morning.
In addition to shorter transit times for those heading to Europe, Kannan said the split schedule also offered quicker connections for Scoot’s Australian travellers flying beyond Singapore to the airline’s Indian and South East Asian destinations.
“As we expanded more and more with regional destinations with Tiger coming on board and, more importantly, with places like Athens and Berlin coming on board, you needed to have connectivity both ways,” Kannan said.
“That is the reason why we split the schedule.
“We hope that some day we will be able to do it for all the Australian cities. Because we do see Australia as a big market travelling not just to Singapore but beyond.”
However, Kannan said there was no plans at this stage to introduce a similar split schedule to its daily Perth-Singapore service, while its Gold Coast-Singapore offering, which operates between three and five times a week depending on the time of year, would have to go to daily before being considered for a schedule change.
He noted Scoot’s presence in Australia is also boosted by having Singapore Airlines codeshare on some Scoot flights. For example, a customer is able to buy a ticket from Brisbane to Berlin with the Brisbane-Singapore leg on Singapore Airlines and the Singapore-Berlin leg on Scoot.
“Looking at the network SQ has, and the frequency spread that they have in Australia, and the fact that now you can cross sell between SQ and Scoot, the question really is do we need to be physically present in some of the other points or do we just tap SQ’s network which we have been doing and which we can do and will continue to do,” Kannan said.
“I would say that we’ve pretty much got it covered as far as Australia is concerned. The priority for us is really building up frequency in these points which we have been doing slowly and getting up to daily and probably 10 times and double daily down the road.
“We are quite happy with what Australia is doing at the moment. Our load factors are 80-85 per cent at least through the year which is significant. With the additional capacity we have out of Singapore to places like Berlin, Athens and so on, that will only increase.”
Meanwhile, Kannan also flagged doing more with Virgin Australia, with whom Scoot has an interline agreement that was signed in 2015.
The Scoot chief commercial officer, who has been in the role for six months having previously been with Singapore Airlines, said the merger with Tigerair Singapore, as well as closer integration with Singapore Airlines, had taken the bulk of the airline’s focus in recent times.
With those projects largely complete, there was now the opportunity to further develop its relationship with Virgin Australia.
“We need to work on it,” Kannan said.
“Later this year we will probably see more results in that space.”
Scoot’s fleet currently consists of 16 Boeing 787s – 10 787-8s and six 787-9s. Of the 10 787-8s, six have crew rest bunks needed for flights to Athens and Berlin, as well as for Singapore-Osaka Kansai-Honolulu flights during certain times of the year.
It is due to receive a further two 787s in 2018 and two more the following year.
Asked if there was a role for the 787-10 variant in the fleet – the LCC’s parent Singapore Airlines has 49 787-10s on order – Kannan said Scoot was likely to be primarily a 787-8 and 787-9 operator.
The LCC also operates some 26 Airbus A320s following the merger of Scoot and Tigerair Singapore, which was completed in 2017.
Kannan said the first delivery of 39 A320neos Scoot has on order was expected either late in 2018 or early 2019. The delivery timetable for these next generation narrowbodies had been pushed back due to production issues with the Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1100G geared turbofan engines Scoot has chosen for its neo fleet.
The A320neos were expected to be used for a mixture of growth and replacement.
“The neos will not be a one for one replacement but overall will be counting towards our ramp up,” Kannan said.
VIDEO: Highlights of a Tigerair Singapore Airbus A320 being repainted, as shown on Scoot’s YouTube channel.