Coronavirus Singapore

SIA to resume daily S'pore-US non-stop flights from Jan 18

Airline sees promising signs for global air travel recovery, especially with start of vaccinations

Singapore Airlines will resume daily non-stop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York's JFK International from Jan 18. All SIA aircraft are equipped with Hepa airflow management systems.
Singapore Airlines will resume daily non-stop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York's JFK International from Jan 18. All SIA aircraft are equipped with Hepa airflow management systems.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Singapore Airlines (SIA) will be resuming daily non-stop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York's JFK International from Jan 18.

Mr Joey Seow, SIA's regional vice-president for the Americas, noted in a statement on Thursday that there are "promising signs for recovery in international air travel, particularly with the start of the vaccine inoculation programme".

In an interview on Thursday, he said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's announcement of further easing of travel measures and the World Economic Forum switching next year to Singapore from Davos, Switzerland, signalled that "Singapore is open for business".

"The Government has taken on the objective of opening up Singapore," he said.

He added that Americans are allowed to transit in Singapore, which was initially not the case. This means there are more opportunities to go on a flight.

"Step by step, there are all these signs, there's a lot more positivity," he said. He also cited the discussions Singapore's Government is having with Vietnam on "green lane" travel bubble arrangements.

"As more and more of these travel bubbles and green lanes are being negotiated, business opportunities will come about. The country begins to slowly but safely open up and we see encouraging signs, which are cause for further optimism."

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, SIA operated 57 flights a week between Singapore and the US.

"When Covid-19 hit us in March, we were down to three a week," Mr Seow said. "We... closed our US network and left only a three-times-a-week Los Angeles service."

Gone were the busy Singapore-New York and Singapore-San Francisco routes.

But this month, SIA began three flights a week to New York; these will be upped to daily next month.

This week, SIA started flying three times a week into San Francisco. "We used to have (flights) 17 times a week," Mr Seow said. "Now, (it's) three times a week; but that will go up to daily."

"For LA, we are now at five a week, we will go up to daily in January. There are other services... Seattle (and) Houston, these will come back later."

All the flights will be non-stop. SIA will operate Airbus A350-900 ultra-long-range aircraft on routes from JFK and San Francisco, in a two-class configuration with 67 business class and 94 premium economy seats, the statement said.

Three-cabin A350-900 LH aircraft will continue to be operated from Los Angeles, accommodating 42 business class, 24 premium economy class and 187 economy class passengers.

"All SIA aircraft are equipped with the Hepa airflow management systems eliminating up to 99.97 percent of bacteria, viruses and particulate matter from cabin air, which is replaced every two to three minutes," the statement said.

Asked if, with vaccinations now starting to be administered, the airline would require passengers to show any kind of certification of vaccination, Mr Seow said it depended on rules in different states.

"We don't set the rules, but we will communicate to customers what the rules are and make sure that they do not have difficulties when they arrive at the destination."

SIA's cargo business operating out of Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas is doing "extremely well", he said. He added that the boom in e-commerce with people stuck at home and making more purchases from online retailers had also helped.

"We get a fair bit of e-commerce traffic… that has been doing very well."

SIA had also drawn business from the market as other carriers reduced their passenger flights with belly-hold capacity. "We have maintained our cargo frequency. Cargo loads into the United States and out have been very strong," Mr Seow said.

SIA would also be carrying vaccines, he said.

According to the statement, SIA "expects significant cargo traffic on each of the expanded services, primarily serving time-sensitive, high-value freight sectors such as pharmaceuticals, technology and fresh produce, among others".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2020, with the headline 'SIA to resume daily S'pore-US non-stop flights from Jan 18'. Subscribe