Upfront

Sin­ga­pore Air­line’s Sek Eng Lee, Re­gional VP Amer­i­cas, ex­plains some of the de­ci­sions that go into the air­line’s ris­ing US pres­ence

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE -

One on One with Sek Eng Lee, Sin­ga­pore Air­lines’ Re­gional VP Amer­i­cas. Ja­panese of­fi­cials OK Ibe­ria’s in­clu­sion in JV. IHG and Ali­pay part­ner.

BT: Sin­ga­pore Air­lines has cer­tainly been boost­ing its ser­vices in the US re­cently. Can you give us some back­ground on how that’s de­vel­oped?

LEE: If I bring you back to how this mar­ket grew, our re­la­tion­ship with North Amer­ica started more than 30 years ago when we first op­er­ated in San Fran­cisco. So all this while, the US has been an im­por­tant strate­gic mar­ket for Sin­ga­pore Air­lines and we be­lieve we have quite a role to play here. Sin­ga­pore Air­lines is a network global car­rier, so it would be re­miss of us not to have the North Amer­i­can mar­ket to be prom­i­nent in our network.

BT: One big piece of news is the non-stop ser­vice from San Fran­cisco to Sin­ga­pore. What fac­tors played into the de­ci­sion to launch that route?

LEE: Our con­sumers have been ask­ing us for a non­stop flight from the US to Sin­ga­pore. The chal­lenge in fly­ing such a long-haul flight is find­ing the right air­craft that would make eco­nomic sense for us. With the A350 we are able to achieve the nec­es­sary range ca­pa­bil­i­ties and sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in terms of op­er­at­ing costs. So with the com­bi­na­tion of these fac­tors, we now have the ap­proach that makes non­stop ser­vice pos­si­ble.

BT: You’re fac­ing some com­pe­ti­tion on that route. Why should a busi­ness trav­eler choose Sin­ga­pore Air­lines?

LEE: It re­ally boils down to a few things: One of them is def­i­nitely the prod­uct that we of­fer, and of course that comes with in­dus­try-lead­ing ser­vice. This is one as­pect of it. And also very im­por­tant for busi­ness trav­el­ers is our broad network of des­ti­na­tion options be­yond our Sin­ga­pore hub. If you look at our network foot­print in Asia, Sin­ga­pore Air­lines, Silk Air and our as­so­ci­ated com­pa­nies, Tiger and Scoot, col­lec­tively fly to 56 points in South­east Asia and In­dia. I don’t be­lieve any of the com­pe­ti­tion of­fers such a wide network with such con­ve­nience. These are all very com­pelling rea­sons for any­body to con­sider Sin­ga­pore Air­lines when they fly to Asia.

BT: How does your air­line make de­ci­sions about where to fly?

LEE: Sin­ga­pore Air­lines is com­mer­cially-driven, and we are very cog­nizant of how we de­ploy our re­sources. So there are reg­u­lar re­views of our network from time to time. Those changes that you are see­ing now to the West Coast of the USA – the launch of non-stop flights from San Fran­cisco to Sin­ga­pore, the de­but of flights from LA to Sin­ga­pore via In­cheon – these are all the con­se­quence of these reg­u­lar network re­views. And it’s im­por­tant to be nim­ble about these changes so that we are able to re­spond to cus­tomer de­mand when the time is right.

BT: What about the re­turn of NewYork ser­vice we’ve heard about?

LEE: The new ver­sion of the A350-900 is com­ing in two years time. Just to clar­ify, we’re plan­ning to de­ploy the new air­craft in both the NewYork and Los An­ge­les mar­kets.

BT: Is the in­dus­try to­day be­ing more re­spon­sive?

LEE: I think you hit the nail on the head. Cus­tomers ex­pect more and more from air­lines. What keeps cus­tomers fly­ing on Sin­ga­pore Air­lines – and I be­lieve this is a key con­sid­er­a­tion – is that we con­tinue to raise the bar with new prod­ucts, ser­vices and ser­vice stan­dards, so our cus­tomers will keep com­ing back to us.

BT: What can we ex­pect that’s new from Sin­ga­pore Air­lines?

LEE: Nu­mer­ous flight and network changes are com­ing our way. And with these flight changes, we will also be en­hanc­ing the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence by de­ploy­ing our lat­est prod­ucts in Econ­omy, Premium Econ­omy, Busi­ness and First Class, in­clud­ing our next-gen­er­a­tion First Class seat that was de­signed by BMW De­signWorks. This seat is cur­rently of­fered on our San Fran­cisco -Hong Kong – Sin­ga­pore flight, and will now be launch­ing for the first time from our Los An­ge­les gate­way, both to Sin­ga­pore via Seoul and to Sin­ga­pore via Narita. So that’s some of what we have an­nounced so far, but stay tuned – there are more an­nounce­ments planned. We never stop; we con­tinue to raise the bar.

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