Extra flights in Asia could trigger airfares to come back down, however it could take time

Many flights canceled during the pandemic are returning to the skies this month.

Last week, Singapore Airlines and Scoot announced they would be adding dozens of flights to cities across Asia. Citing strong demand and eased border restrictions, both airlines announced more flights between Singapore and Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Scoot is also returning twice-weekly flights to Yogyakarta and Pekanbaru in October.

Most flights are resuming, but Scoot is adding some new routes. This month she will fly from Singapore to Lombok and Makassar, Indonesia. Scoot is also adding a seasonal non-stop service to Sapporo for travelers wanting to hit the slopes in Japan this winter.

Both airlines are preparing for more flights to China. Singapore Airlines launched flights to Beijing in September; This month it will fly to Chengdu, with a second weekly flight to Shenzhen. Scoot already flies to four Chinese cities, with flights to Wuhan and Zhengzhou starting this week.

Scoot isn’t the only low-cost airline expanding its services in the region. Cebu Pacific resumes its first international route from Davao to Singapore this month. And AirAsia is resuming several flights between Malaysia and Indonesia, including a new route connecting Bali with Penang.

Following the easing of border restrictions in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific’s low-cost airline HK Express announced plans to add more than 400 flights between Hong Kong and Singapore, Bangkok and several cities in Japan by the end of the year.

More flights, cheaper fares?

James Marshall, vice president of global air at Expedia Group, told Squawk Box Asia on Monday that the limited flight choices available to travelers in Asia is “one of the reasons the prices are quite high.”

“The fact that airlines are increasing capacity is a very good thing,” he said. But whether airfares are peaking right now, Marshall said, “It’s very hard to tell.”

One problem is that the industry continues to struggle with staff shortages. The Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association, a professional body representing Cathay Pacific pilots, warned last week that due to staffing shortages “airfares will continue to rise due to low supply combined with high demand” – a situation weighing on Hong Kong becomes “many years.”

Staffing issues have been blamed for last summer’s travel chaos in Europe and North America — a problem Asian airlines don’t want to repeat, Marshall said.

“Asia Pacific airlines have been very careful about how they are managing the surge… and making sure they are staffed at the right level so we don’t end up with operational issues that we have seen in other regions.” , he said .

If airlines remain cautious about adding new flights and demand remains strong – particularly with the end of the Christmas travel season – cheaper fares may not materialize for some time.

“We’re obviously optimistic about opening and reducing capacity, but demand is still very strong, especially towards the end of the year,” Marshall said.

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