SIA to launch new non-stop flights to New York in November amid early signs of recovery in air travel

This new route will be the 41st destination that SIA is operating flights to in the current climate.
This new route will be the 41st destination that SIA is operating flights to in the current climate.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Singapore Airlines (SIA) will start three weekly non-stop flights to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in November, amid "early signs of optimism about a recovery in air travel".

This new route will be the 41st destination that SIA is operating flights to in the current climate.

Announcing this on Tuesday (Oct 20), SIA said the flights will transport both passengers and cargo.

With the new route, the national carrier now operates two non-stop services to the United States, the other being to Los Angeles.

SIA said the service will be supported by the growing number of transfer passengers who can now transit via Singapore's Changi Airport.

The flight will also be the only non-stop air cargo link from the north-east of the US to Singapore, which is a regional distribution hub for many major US-based companies.

"SIA anticipates significant cargo demand from a range of industries based in the New York metro area, including pharmaceuticals, e-commerce and technology firms," said SIA.

The flights to New York will begin on Nov 9. Three weekly non-stop flights from John F. Kennedy International Airport back to Singapore will start two days later, on Nov 11.

The Airbus A350-900 long-range aircraft, which will fly the route, is configured with 42 Business Class, 25 Premium Economy Class and 187 Economy Class seats.

Mr Lee Lik Hsin, executive vice-president (commercial) of SIA, said the flight was an important step in rebuilding the airline's global network.

"We will continue to ramp up existing services and reinstate other points as the demand for both passenger and cargo services return," he said.

"Our customers say they are increasingly confident about air travel... That gives us confidence about the medium- to long-term prospects for the industry."

Independent aviation analyst Brendan Sobie from Sobie Aviation said the flight is probably a strategic move for “high-value cargo between the two financial centres” and “premium passengers”, given the continued restrictions on travellers to the US. 

“It will be difficult for SIA to make money from the flights,” he said, adding that he does not expect the average passenger load on the flights to exceed 20 per cent of available capacity, which is similar to that for SIA’s Los Angeles flights. 

He noted that the ultra-long-range planes more suited for non-stop flights for such distances have not been brought back, which means there will be restrictions on the flight payload due to fuel concerns. 

Singapore does not have special travel arrangements with the US. 

Changi Airport, which was the seventh busiest airport for international passenger traffic before Covid-19 struck, has fallen to 58th place this year. In Parliament, Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung said there are today 49 direct flights to cities, compared with 160 previously.

In addition to setting up a testing facility at Changi Airport which can swab up to 10,000 passengers a day, the Government is also in talks with other countries to reopen two-way general travel.

It was announced last week that Singapore and Hong Kong have agreed to allow tourists from both sides to visit each other without needing to be quarantined.