No-one in the airline game in Australia could remember seeing anything like the note Singapore Airlines sent to the media last night:

The airline is claiming to be acting for everyone, not just itself.

Sort of like Singapore Airlines playing the role of ‘grandma’ in the dark woods, hoping that ‘Lil Red riding Hood, (Qantas), might drop in for a visit.

Singapore Airlines says it is doing something to restore consumer confidence for the entire industry by encouraging travellers to buy cheap fares to London and European cities in advance in the knowledge that if Singapore Airlines should for some reason undercut itself closer to the date of travel it will refund the difference.

So, buy a $1950 return to London on SQ (which is around $52 more than a comparable QF offer) and SQ later decides to clobber a cheap offer from those Malaysian upstarts at AirAsia X or, let’s guess, Qantas, by cutting it to $1250 before you fly, it will give back $700.

The Singapore girl will in effect, meet her own best offers, but not necessarily those of her competitors.

The ‘benchmark’ reference could also be read as encouragement to other airlines to act in concert and ‘get the industry moving.’

Which is rather odd. The reality is that the market scarcely needs moving. Flights on the kangaroo route are packed with bargain shoppers already, especially when the exchange rate against the North Atlantic peso, the Pound Sterling, is better than ever.

Almost everyone on the routes to London and Europe tries to sell return economy flights for close to $4000 from eastern Australian cities, but a large proportion of the seats sold go in advance for significantly less, around the $1900 level.

The rational explanation for the ‘Future Proof’ Singapore Airlines deal is to send a signal to competitors that SQ isn’t going to surrender its very strong position on the UK-Europe to anyone, no matter what it costs.

Once that message sinks in everyone can consider trying to lift the fares back to higher levels, and get on with screwing the customers rather than each other.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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