Scoot to start flying to Athens next June

Long-haul budget carrier Scoot will start flying to Athens, Greece - its first point in Europe - in June next year.
Long-haul budget carrier Scoot will start flying to Athens, Greece - its first point in Europe - in June next year.PHOTO: SCOOT

It is budget carrier's first point in Europe, with second likely unveiled before year end

Long-haul budget carrier Scoot will start flying to Athens, Greece - its first point in Europe - in June next year.

A second European destination is likely to be announced before the year end.

The "landmark" decision to fly to Athens comes on the back of new-found confidence post-integration with Tigerair, said the chief executive of the two airlines, Mr Lee Lik Hsin.

The plan is to fill the planes with travellers not just from Singapore but also from across the region by leveraging on Tigerair's network within South-east Asia and beyond, he told The Straits Times yesterday.

Scoot and Tigerair are part of the Singapore Airlines group, which announced in May that a new entity - Budget Aviation Holdings - had been set up to house and run its two budget carriers.

Mr Lee, who was already Tigerair's chief executive then, now helms both carriers, which retain their separate brands for now but operate as one company with merged human resources, finance, administration and other functions.

The new structure will create more opportunities for growth, he said yesterday. "You can expand with just point-to-point traffic, but if you want to reach a higher level of growth, you really have to generate connecting traffic."

On the future Singapore-Athens route, for example, "traffic between Greece and Singapore is not going to be sufficient to fill a large aircraft", he said. "But with the Tigerair network, we are bringing passengers from Europe to Thailand, to Indonesia, to the rest of South-east Asia and to Australia as well on Scoot's network."

While less than 5 per cent of Scoot and Tigerair passengers now connect between the two carriers, Mr Lee is confident that the number will increase, though he declined to reveal a target.

Scoot's decision to enter the European market makes sense, said industry think-tank Centre for Aviation in a recent report.

The airline, which currently operates 11 aircraft to 20 cities mainly in the Asia-Pacific, has to look further to support nine more planes coming over the next few years.

Barcelona and Madrid in Spain, as well as Rome in Italy and Manchester in England, are other European destinations that Scoot can consider, the report noted.

While the relatively low cost of fuel today - compared with previous highs - and the operating efficiencies of Scoot's fleet of Boeing 787s should help the airline operate its long-haul flights to Europe viably, the challenge will come when fuel prices climb again, industry analysts warned.

Mr Lee said: "Whether or not the routes, especially the long-haul ones, continue to be viable in a high-fuel-cost environment really depends on demand."

More important is that "we see the opportunity now and are taking advantage of it, and we believe we can make it work".

To mark the impending launch of the Singapore-Athens flights, which will run four times a week, Scoot is offering promotional one- way fares, starting at $288, from now until 11.59pm on Aug 31.

The airline, which currently operates 11 aircraft to 20 cities mainly in the Asia-Pacific, has to look further to support nine more planes coming over the next few years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2016, with the headline 'Scoot to start flying to Athens next June'. Print Edition | Subscribe