Add the swine ‘flu pandemic, which kills travel but leaves most people unharmed, to the global financial crisis, which cripples discretionary and corporate spending, and you get a very, very bad month for Singapore Airlines.
But look closer at the figures, and it is also apparent that it is managing the double crisis comparatively well.
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Passengers measured as passenger revenue kilometres dropped by a very sharp 22.8% last month compared to May 2008. However the number of seats on offer were hauled back by 13.9 % using the same metric which caused passenger load factors to drop 7.8%, which while a bad number is not one that would call the airline’s survival into doubt.
Singapore Airlines doesn’t give guidance on what has happened to yields, but given the deep discounts it has on offer, and a severe disinterest in first and business class, it is difficult to imagine the airline making money during the month.
The game plan, for Singapore Airlines and major competitors like Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Emirates, is to loose money as slowly as possible, while protecting market share. The May figures for Cathay Pacific came out last week, and those for all of the Qantas group carriers are expected just before the end of this month.