SIA signs MOU with United Airlines in move that could lead to more arrivals at Changi

SIA said both airlines will aim to progressively code-share on each other's service from Singapore and the US. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - More travellers from the United States could soon be passing through Changi Airport to other parts of the region following a landmark agreement between Singapore Airlines (SIA) and US carrier United Airlines.

The move could also lead to an additional option for Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flights to Singapore, and in the long term, pave the way for lower fares and more flights between Singapore and US, said experts.

SIA had announced the partnership with United Airlines in an internal circular earlier this month.

It said the carriers had signed a memorandum of understanding to work on supporting the resumption of connectivity between Singapore and the US.

"This milestone signals the start of a deeper partnership between both airlines, which could offer enhanced options and benefits for customers in line with the applicable laws and regulations," said SIA.

It said the move is part of its strategy to build partnerships with major airlines around the world, which would help increase connectivity to and through Singapore, and support the recovery of Singapore's air hub.

SIA said both airlines will aim to progressively code-share on each other's services from Singapore and the US.

The collaboration could extend to Scoot in subsequent phases.

The code-share arrangement refers to the practice where one airline sells seats on a flight operated by the other airlines.

This allows travellers to enjoy benefit from the airlines' respective frequent flyer or corporate travel programme.

SIA told The Straits Times that specifics of the agreement will remain confidential, but more details will be announced in due course.

It said partnerships with other airlines enable SIA to gain access to additional destinations and offer more options for customers.

As at September, SIA has 34 code-share partners and access to more than 200 additional destinations through these partnerships.

Its most significant partnerships, such as those with German carrier Lufthansa and Air New Zealand, go beyond code-sharing to include collaborations in areas such as coordination of schedules and revenue sharing.

It also has three partnerships that are pending regulatory approval - with Japanese carrier ANA, Indian carrier Vistara and Malaysia Airlines.

Mr Mayur Patel, head of Asia at flight data and analytics provider OAG Aviation, said the agreement between SIA and United Airlines will allow the US carrier to restart its non-stop Singapore-to-San Francisco services.

This will provide an alternative choice for passengers looking to travel into Singapore under the Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme.

"United Airlines and SIA are fierce competitors across the Pacific but the new code-share could open the door to a broader and potentially game changing partnership," Mr Patel added.

He said the partnership would provide SIA with better access to US destinations beyond those it is directly flying to and could also lead to a joint venture.

This joint venture, if it goes through, would support expanded capacity between Singapore and the US, said Mr Patel.

It would also allow both airlines to offer joint fare products and strengthen connectivity at both of the airlines' air hubs.

Mr Joshua Ng, director of the Alton Aviation Consultancy, said the agreement will improve SIA's position in the US market.

He said it is not expected to affect VTL travellers much initially, given that it will take time to implement the code-sharing agreements.

But he said travellers will be able to see the benefits of the agreement in early 2022, as international travel recovers.

"With this partnership, travellers will be able to see and book an expanded set of itinerary options via the SIA reservation systems," Mr Ng added.

"These itinerary options will allow for more flexible connections, more direct and shorter routes via SIA's and United Airlines' non-stop flights between Singapore and the US, and also likely lower fares in the target markets."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.