SINGAPORE - Almost 600,000 passengers flew on Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Scoot's planes in December, in its strongest set of results since the Covid-19 pandemic rapidly worsened in early 2020.
The number is almost double the figure in November, and seven times the figure in December 2020, according to figures released on Monday afternoon (Nov 17).
But experts said the rate of recovery is expected to slow down in the coming months owing to the Omicron variant and the reduced quota for a quarantine-free travel scheme.
The SIA Group, which is made up of the full-service SIA and its budget arm, Scoot, said the significant increase in passenger demand in December came on the back of a continued expansion of its Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) flights and the year-end travel season.
It noted that eight cities - including Bangkok - has joined the SIA Group's VTL network in December.
As at end-December, the SIA Group's passenger network, including to non-VTL countries, covered 85 destinations.
SIA Group's passenger capacity is now at 45 per cent of the levels achieved in January 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic grounded planes worldwide.
Meanwhile, its cargo load factor in December fell 9.9 per cent compared with the year before. This was due to the increase in cargo capacity being bigger than the increase in cargo loads, said SIA Group.
SIA's and Scoot's recovery had been boosted since the launch of the VTL scheme in September. The scheme allows travellers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the country without having to serve quarantine.
But following the emergence of the Omicron variant, the carriers were forced to suspend new ticket sales for VTL flights entering Singapore between Dec 23 and Jan 20.
Tickets for VTL arrivals from Jan 21 are still available, but the arrival quota has been cut by half to allow only 5,000 passengers to enter daily.
SIA Group said it expects the passenger capacity for January and February to be around 47 per cent and 45 per cent of the levels in January 2020.
Mr Mayur Patel, head of Asia at flight data and analytics provider OAG Aviation, said SIA's latest set of results are encouraging, especially on long-haul sectors.
But he cautioned that the emergence of Omicron has affected demand for travel. The absence of China, Hong Kong and Japan traffic will continue to place limitation on SIA Group's...