Singapore Airlines (SIA) has started flying to Dusseldorf, Germany - a key development for Changi Airport which aims to be a major hub not just for travellers within Asia but also globally.
Before the service was launched yesterday, the last time Changi added a European city to its network was five years ago when Finnair started flying to and from Helsinki.
Part of the problem has been SIA's inability to grow its long-haul network in recent years due to high fuel costs and other operational issues.
Before Dusseldorf, SIA's last new point in Europe was Munich, Germany, which it started serving in 2010.
With fuel prices easing in the last two years and the airline now operating the more efficient Airbus 350 which has been deployed on the Singapore-Dusseldorf sector, SIA is ready to expand again, its top brass said.
With the addition of Dusseldorf, Singapore is the only South-east Asian country serving the three busiest airports in Germany including Munich and Frankfurt, according to Changi Airport Group senior vice-president for market development Lim Ching Kiat.
The more fuel-efficient Airbus 350 has been deployed on the new Singapore-Dusseldorf sector. Singapore is the only South-east Asian country serving the three busiest airports in Germany now. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Changi now offers travellers direct flights to 15 cities in Europe.
Mr Lim added that a recent tie-up between SIA and German carrier Lufthansa should provide even more options.
Changi's links to Europe are expected to be further boosted by SIA's long-haul low-cost arm, Scoot, which is expected to make its foray into the continent next year. Potential destinations include Athens in Greece as well as Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, the Centre for Aviation noted in a recent report.
"Scoot has the opportunity to establish itself quickly in Europe," the report said. "Competition against other low-cost carriers will be relatively limited but it will be intense against Middle Eastern full-service airlines which have pursued aggressive expansion in the South-east Asia-Europe market."
Between January and May, passenger traffic between Singapore and Europe grew by 4.4 per cent compared with the same five months last year. During the same time, overall traffic at the airport increased by 9.1 per cent.
The addition of Dusseldorf and plans by the SIA group to add more long-haul points should help reverse the trend of Changi losing its role as a long-haul hub.
According to industry consultancy OAG, the proportion of routes over 6,000km to and from Singapore had fallen from 13 per cent in June 2010 to 11.3 per cent last month.