SINGAPORE – Singapore Airlines’ budget arm Scoot will restore China flights to more than half of pre-pandemic levels by June.

The airline said on Wednesday it will progressively increase its flights to China from the current 14 a week to 57. 

Before the pandemic, Scoot operated 107 weekly flights to China, said a spokesman.

The restoration of flights comes after China reopened its borders significantly in January as it scrapped quarantine measures for overseas arrivals after nearly three years of strict pandemic restrictions.

Before Covid-19 hit, China was the world’s largest source of outbound tourists, who took 170 million trips and contributed US$253 billion (S$338 billion) to the global economy in 2019. 

Earlier this week, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan stressed Singapore’s desire to see flights and other connections return to how they were before the pandemic.

On his first trip to China since it relaxed its zero-Covid policy, Dr Balakrishnan told his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang that there used to be 400 flights a week linking Singapore and China, while there are just 56 now.

In January, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said it expects Chinese tourist arrivals in 2023 to be 30 per cent to 60 per cent of pre-Covid-19 numbers of about 3.6 million visitors a year. 

However, this will largely depend on the speed at which China allows outbound travel, as well as the pace at which flights between Singapore and China resume, said STB’s assistant chief executive of international group Juliana Kua.

From now until March 25, Scoot will be increasing the number of flights to the current seven China destinations, which include Guangzhou and Nanjing, from 14 flights a week to 26.

In April, Scoot will also resume flights to places like Xi’an and Haikou, bringing the total number of weekly flights to China to 42.

Travellers can also fly to Nanning and Shenyang in May. By June, there will be 57 weekly flights to the country.

Scoot’s chief executive Leslie Thng said: “Scoot has been anticipating the return of travel to and from China and we will scale up operations to meet the demand from this sizeable market.

“We will also ramp up frequencies to other popular summer destinations as customers continue to seek travel to connect with loved ones, explore new cultures and create new experiences.”

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