Singapore Airlines is fighting to prevent travellers from switching to Emirates Airline, which is offering luxuries like on-board shower, while budget carriers are chipping away at the coach class. The result: The lowest yield from passengers in six years.
Yields, or the revenue earned from a passenger for flying a kilometre, was 10.6 Singapore cents in the year ended March, dropping from 11.2 cents a year earlier. That damped full-year net income to S$804mn ($585mn), or about a quarter of what Emirates racked up in the same period.
Shares of Southeast Asia’s biggest airline fell the most in almost five years as the carrier faces increasing challenges to retain front-end customers amid the expansion of Middle East airlines. Low-fare airlines are also putting pressure on short- haul routes. To fight back, chief executive officer Goh Choon Phong, 52, has ordered more than $10bn of new aircraft and formed alliances from Australia to India as Asia is poised to become the world’s biggest travel market in two decades.
“They’re being squeezed in many different fronts,” said Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation consultant Endau Analytics in Malaysia. “The market dynamics have changed forever for Singapore Air.”
The stock declined 5.4% on Friday, the biggest drop since August 2011. That erased this year’s gains and the stock has now lost 1.8% in 2016.
The flag carrier of the city state on Thursday reported fourth-quarter profit that lagged behind analyst estimates as losses from fuel-hedging countered gains from carrying more passengers during the Lunar New Year holiday season.
Net income jumped more than fivefold to S$224.7mn in the quarter ended March, the carrier said in a statement to the Singapore stock exchange after trading hours on Thursday. Analysts estimated Singapore Air to report a profit of S$249.2mn. Sales at S$3.71bn also missed estimates.
“Across the industry, yields are under pressure,” Goh said at a briefing in Singapore on Friday. “We see some weakness going forward. Oil price is volatile and competition continues.”
Singapore Air has had no choice but to discount “heavily,” sacrificing yields to fill more seats amid the rising competition, said Malayan Banking Bhd analyst Mohshin Aziz.
Singapore Air has been looking to build alliances abroad as part of a multi-hub strategy. It partnered with India’s Tata Group to start Vistara in January 2015 and owns about 23% of Virgin Australia Holdings. The company’s Scoot unit also teamed up with Nok Airlines of Thailand to set up NokScoot. Singapore Air started flying its two Airbus Group SE 253-seat A350 aircraft to Amsterdam from May 9. The carrier will receive the ultra-long-range version of the plane in 2018 for services to New York, which will become the world’s longest non- stop flight.
Singapore Air – the only Asian carrier to fly the Concorde and the first in the world to fly the A380 superjumbo – needs new passengers to stem the slide in earnings. Operating profit peaked eight years ago and sales reached a high in the year ended March 2009 as the global financial crisis crimped premium travel. The carrier is counting on cabin comforts to lure higher-end passengers used to its fully flat beds as well as more price-conscious customers.
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