SIA watching Virgin Australia developments

SIA will remain focused on growing its passenger arms - SIA, SilkAir, Scoot, Tigerair - improving its products and services, and striking partnerships with like-minded carriers to grow its network. SIA travellers can also look forward to the new batc
SIA will remain focused on growing its passenger arms - SIA, SilkAir, Scoot, Tigerair - improving its products and services, and striking partnerships with like-minded carriers to grow its network. SIA travellers can also look forward to the new batch of five Airbus 380s, which start arriving next year.PHOTO: REUTERS

It has a shared stake with Air New Zealand and Etihad; Kiwi carrier has put its 25.9% up for sale

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has said it is more focused on developments within the Australian air travel market and less about whether it gets approval to fly between Australia and the United States.

Commenting on a recent expansion of Singapore-Australia ties which excluded air links, airline chief Goh Choon Phong said yesterday he was not disappointed as he had no expectations.

Access to the Australia-US market was much sought after by SIA a decade ago but the sector has become less lucrative now with more players operating the routes.

A day after the airline reported a more than doubling of profits in the year to March 31 to $804 million, Mr Goh told The Straits Times: "Australia is an important market... But the trans-Pacific is just one route and it does not come through Singapore. The sector has, in the past especially, been very profitable but it is not a priority for us now. It does not mean we won't consider it but we have other plans for the use of the aircraft that we have and will be acquiring."

A bigger priority is developments within Virgin Australia which SIA has a shared stake in along with Air New Zealand and Etihad Airways.

The Kiwi carrier has put its 25.9 per cent stake up for sale.

Last month, SIA increased its shareholding in Virgin Australia to 23.11 per cent from 22.91 per cent. This led to market speculation that the Singapore carrier may be keen to acquire Air New Zealand's stake.

Mr Goh said: "Virgin Australia is commercially very important for us because the Australian market is very important and Virgin Australia allows us to be a lot more effective in penetrating the smaller points and, more important, accessing the corporate travel market."

He would not be drawn into saying whether SIA was keen to acquire Air New Zealand's stake but said it would be watching developments within Virgin Australia "closely".

Meanwhile, SIA will remain focused on growing its four different passenger arms - SIA, SilkAir, Scoot, Tigerair - improving its products and services, and striking partnerships with like-minded carriers to grow its network, Mr Goh said.

Much of the growth within the group in the coming year will be driven by budget carrier Scoot, which operates medium- to long-haul flights, and regional arm SilkAir.

SIA travellers can also look forward to the airline's new batch of five Airbus 380s, which start arriving next year. The double-decker jet will feature new seats and other on-board products, taking into account feedback from existing and potential customers, Mr Goh said.

"We want to see what it is that they are looking for and how we can provide a product that will meet their needs... I will leave you to experience it when it comes."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'SIA watching Virgin Australia developments'. Print Edition | Subscribe