Friday, June 03, 2022

Finally, boarding time for Singapore Airlines’ flight to India

Singapore Airlines Ltd.’s long-delayed flight to India may finally be ready for take-off.

As travel resumes and the carrier moves past the record annual loss it was reporting around this time last year, Chief Executive Officer Goh Choon Phong wants to pursue a multi-hub strategy, one in which airlines owned by it will benefit from aviation demand outside of Singapore.

“India is obviously a very important one because it’s going to be massive,” Goh told Bloomberg News, adding that he expects the country to be the third-largest aviation market after China and the US by the middle of the decade, if not sooner.

It’s a market that has attracted the small Asian city-state for decades. Singapore Airlines had partnered with the Mumbai-based conglomerate Tata Group in the failed 2001 privatisation of Air India Ltd. New Delhi finally got around to selling the flag carrier to Tata only last year.

During that 20-year period, West Asian rivals tried to make inroads into India.

Etihad Airways PJSC invested in Jet Airways India Ltd., whose founder Naresh Goyal ran his carrier into bankruptcy. When Qatar was negotiating for more flights between Indian locations and Doha six years ago, it was told to set up a new airline. Qatar Airways Ltd. even announced a brand-new short-haul carrier for India. While nothing came of that plan, the company has often expressed its keenness to buy a stake in IndiGo, India’s biggest airline.

The Tata Group flirted with others, including Singapore Airlines’ arch rival AirAsia Bhd., with which it launched AirAsia India. Goh, who rose to become CEO in 2011, stuck to Tata, taking a 49 percent stake in its full-service carrier Vistara. In the seven years that Vistara has been flying, it’s yet to turn a profit even though it now serves nine overseas destinations and covers 31 cities in India.

But Goh’s loyalty and patience may finally be rewarded: Campbell Wilson, the CEO of Singapore Airlines’ no-frills Scoot brand, is joining as CEO of the newly-privatised Air India. This isn’t a case of Tata poaching senior talent from its partner, but rather the beginning of a deeper relationship.

03/06/22 Andy Mukherjee/Moneycontrol

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