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 non-stop 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 New York 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 New York 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.