Singapore Airlines – Time for re-branding?
Note: This is a Guest Post by Kat. She enjoys everything about airlines and works for their worst enemy: an airport.
Great brands have emerged amidst doom and gloom of economic recessions. Is this time for Singapore Airlines (SIA) to reinvent itself?
True enough, all these years, a Singapore Girl and premium class travel image were the selling points of the brand. But this economic crisis appears to have shaken and changed the landscapes of air travel industry quite significantly. More businessmen are taking budget carriers these days, premium class load factors show no signs of stopping decline, SIA business-class-only services had to be cut.
Market experts have been pointing out that even with the economic recovery premium class travel might not recover. After all, these low-cost-carriers (LCCs) get you there for a fraction of a price. At busier airports, LCCs have been snatching up slots, vacated by full-service carriers, which the latter might have a hard time getting back.
SIA appears to have been burning the candle from both ends. During the boom times, SIA had been steadily increasing the proportion of premium-class seats and improving level of service, while raising airfares. When the crisis struck, the airline appeared to be too slow to reduce ticket prices, banking on preservation of its image of a premium product. However, Emirates have been quick to imitate some of the product offerings at a lower price. Take for example first class suites. A Sydney-London return trip on Emirates will cost AUD 19,000, while the same itinerary on SIA will set one back AUD 22,500. So SIA is pricing itself out at a time when price is becoming an increasingly important factor in the choice of airline.
At the same time, there was a steady stream of complaints from the highest tier of frequent flyers (Solitaire PPS Club) because the airline discontinued offering lifetime membership and trimmed down benefits enjoyed by existing members. Travelers have been pointing out reductions in amenities during the flight and falling standards of service. Thus, the airline has not been meeting expectations dictated by the higher price braket.
As the skies are opening up, the carrier is facing tougher competition on more of its routes.
Is it already happening?
Just recently, SIA signed an agreement with Air India allowing bilateral usage of miles on each other’s flights. This will give more passengers an access to premium travel on SIA, further eroding its exclusive image.
Perhaps, Singapore Airlines Group too has realized that old times are gone for good and if it still wants to fly high, it has to review its branding strategy? Are we going to see SIA’s regional brand, Silkair, rise to greater prominence, now that simpler products with fewer frills (and costing fewer dollars) are all the rage? Or does Tiger Airways’ (an LCC) strong expansion already signal a foray into the new territory? I wonder.