Emirates Launching Singapore To Penang Flight

Filed Under: Emirates

Emirates operates quite a few fifth freedom flights (where they’re flying between two countries other than the UAE), and they’ve just announced their latest such route.

Emirates launching Singapore to Penang flight

Emirates will launch a new daily service between Singapore and Penang as of April 9, 2020. Passengers will be able to book Emirates between Singapore and Penang, or can book it as part of a larger itinerary connecting to Dubai and beyond.

Penang will be Emirates’ second destination in Malaysia, after Kuala Lumpur, which the airline currently serves with three daily flights.

Schedule for Emirates’ new Penang flight

Emirates’ new flight between Dubai and Penang (via Singapore) will operate with the following schedule:

EK348 Dubai to Singapore departing 2:30AM arriving 2:05PM
EK348 Singapore to Penang departing 3:35PM arriving 5:15PM

EK349 Penang to Singapore departing 10:20PM arriving 11:50PM
EK349 Singapore to Dubai departing 1:40AM arriving 4:55AM

The flight between Singapore and Penang covers a distance of just 373 miles, and is blocked at 1hr40min to Penang, and 1hr30min to Singapore.

I’ll be curious to see how they crew this flight, given that the plane sits on the ground in Penang for about five hours:

  • Will they have crews work all the way from Dubai to Penang? Maybe they can get away with that for their flight attendant contract, but certainly not with their pilot contract.
  • Will the crews work Dubai to Singapore, have a layover, then work Singapore to Penang to Singapore as a turn (with a five hour “sit” in Penang), have a layover, and then work back to Dubai?
  • Will the crews operate each segment on a separate day, which seems highly inefficient?

Emirates’ 777-300ER cabins

The new Singapore to Penang flight will be operated by a three cabin 777-300ER featuring 354 seats.

Emirates 777-300ER

This includes eight first class suites, in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Emirates 777-300ER first class

Then there are 42 business class seats, which are slightly angled and in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Emirates 777-300ER business class

Lastly, the 304 economy seats are in a 3-4-3 configuration.

Competition on the route & Emirates in Singapore

Emirates has a history of operating fifth freedom flights out of Singapore. In addition to flying to Singapore from Dubai, the airline also flies there from Brisbane and Melbourne, though the Brisbane route is being cut at the end of March 2020. Furthermore, in the past Emirates flew from Singapore to Colombo.

The Singapore to Penang market as such is quite competitive, as AirAsia, Jetstar Asia, Scoot, and SilkAir, all operate in the market. It’ll be interesting to see how Emirates does, given that they’re largely competing with low cost carriers.

Why would Emirates further add capacity to the market? As Emirates’ Chief Commercial Officer, Adnan Kazim, describes the route:

“Penang is a major centre for tourism, business travel, as well as medical tourism and the increased levels of inbound travel is consistent with the growth in numbers of visitors to the country. We have been serving Malaysia through our flights to Kuala Lumpur for more than 20 years, with three-times daily service, and the introduction of flights to Penang will help us meet growing demand from leisure and business travellers, both to and from Malaysia. We are also pleased that the fifth freedom flights between Penang and Singapore will connect two sister cities and increase connectivity for passengers in South East Asia.”

It’s also noted that Emirates will offer up to 15 tons of cargo capacity to & from Penang, so I could imagine this might have as much to do with cargo as passengers.

Bottom line

It’s cool to see Emirates launch a daily service between Singapore and Penang as of April 2020. I love a cool fifth freedom flight, and this one sort of seemed to come out of left field.

This is certainly much better than anything else offered in the market, but then again, there are limits to how much you can enjoy such a short flight.

What do you make of Emirates’ new Singapore to Penang flight?

  1. Emirates’ third second-tier destination in Southeast Asia (not counting the Philippines), after Phnom Penh and Yangon. It goes without saying that they are all extensively served by Qatar Airways.

  2. They’re not really competing with LCCs IMO … they’re trying to offer 1 transfer in DXB service to Penang from virtually anywhere in the world. Other than avgeeks who find it interesting, I doubt many people will be choosing Emirates on a trip originating in Singapore.

  3. Interesting choice, given that EK already has 2 flights within its peak departure bank (~12-3am) in each direction (77W/380). I’m guessing that they are playing it safe with the SIN tag to test the market and fill some of the full-service demand that is monopolized by MI.

    SQ used to fly 3x daily before transferring the route to MI, which operates 6x daily now (up from 4x daily when it was first transferred). Apart from KL, PEN is MI’s busiest route and SIA Cargo serves PEN quite well, so while SQ has probably been happy with the status quo, I doubt SQ saw this coming.

  4. More important question is how long the EK plane sits in Singapore. They’re probably trying to serve the expats traffic from Europe who’d prefer the take their entire journey from Europe (or even US) to Penang on one carrier (one ticket) w/o having to transfer (on a separate ticket) to a LCC.

  5. I was hoping the A380 would fly this route. It would be fun to see if the shower is available. Too bad DXB-MCT isn’t.

  6. One would think that with SIN-PEN being so competitive, EK could have seized the opportunity to operate DXB-PEN-MEL/SYD since there are no direct flights at the moment. Maybe they have some solid cargo contracts already arranged (or see big potential)?

  7. From the looks of this, it seems like Emirates is trying to utilize the slots from the recently cancelled Singapore to Brisbane service. I heard that they are hiring all station staff in Penang on one year contracts only, further hinting that this is a temporary option until a better option comes along. I would be surprised if this route sticks around longer than a year. They’re probably trying to figure out something that is more revenue generating than a backhaul with low yielding traffic. Sounds sleazy of Emirates to treat Penang like this. Hopefully this doesn’t fire back on them

  8. @ Trey – Agree 100%. I was just in Penang and would consider Singapore Air as the best direct flight option, but the meals for purchase on Air Asia were great. Only an hour flight so not really concerned on airline as long as it is direct. Going to Penang we took Malaysia Airlines and connecting thru KL sucks. Air Asia was good.

  9. This is an odd new route unless Emirates see a large tourist market for indirect flights to Penang which will fly over the island and an hour later land in Singapore where there will be a ninety minute stopover to reclear security and get back on the plane to arrive back at a place you passed over four hours earlier. I doubt they will pick up much point to point traffic.

    If they wanted to use fifth freedom in Malaysia I suspect Kuching or Kota Kinabalu would have been more interesting in that they are less served and beyond Singapore so no back tracking. Neither place is well served from overseas and I think the only international service to KCH is from SIN and the rest is domestic – though there are controls arriving from peninsula Malaysia.

    BKI is a little better served including from ICN. CAN, TPE and WUH – no doubt the latter is currently cancelled – but there is no way to the Borneo Malaysia without transiting KUL or SIN if you are coming from the west.

  10. Ah, I remember back in the early 00s taking SQ between SIN and PEN. I believe one trip was an A310 (?), and another trip was a 777 (?). Buy-ups to business class were only a few USD (read: cheap!). On the short flight SQ served a great hot meal. Sadly those days are long gone.

  11. Would assume the crew will layover in Penang. Use 3 pilots and they’ll be comfortably within their duty time limits to operate both sectors. Plus Penang hotels are far cheaper than those in Singapore

  12. We are going to see a consolidation of Malaysia flights, with all flights by SQ, MH, TR, 3K, AK eventually operated by widebody aircraft. This is motivated by 2 factors: Changi has no real way to expand because construction of T5 will only see it up earliest 2032 and take 10 years to open. So, Changi decided that they will adopt a similar policy as Haneda.

    The strategy is basically, F**k and go. Haneda gives airlines a maximum of 65min. Planes cannot sit and squat on parking stands anymore. SIN will probably be the same. This will motivate EK and AF and KL and LH to add tags, and we may see them returning to Australia.

    My brother is a pilot for SQ, and he says it’ll be crazy.
    He also says that SQ’s experiment with the 787-10s worked. With a superior IFE and wifi and stuff, the cabin crew aren’t bothered as much, and this gives them an opportunity to have “longer breaks” in staff only oxygenated rooms or something that resembles ground atmospheric pressure and humidity for the so called off duty crews, with rotating duty crews just keeping watch.

    And SQ EK plan to merge.

  13. Believe me guys, Penang is the next logical destination in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur.

    Penang is quite well known amongst European and Middle Eastern tourists. Penang airport is also a major freight hub in the country exporting electric and electronic items. Even parts of B787 is made in Penang if I am not mistaken.

    Actually, way back in 2011, Emirates already studied expanding to other Malaysian cities. The airline specifically mentioned Penang and Kota Kinabalu (BKI) but strongly saw the opportunity for the former.

    Would like to see BKI being added. But I don’t think it is feasible…yet. But there is recent unconfirmed news report that Qatar Airways may be planning to start flight to BKI later this year. I think it will also be a 5th freedom flight. I would think it will be routed via BKK. So far BKK-BKI route will be serviced by AirAsia only.

  14. @Dominic Yeo:

    Please pass what you’re smoking, it’s obviously the good stuff if you think airlines owned by state sovereign investment funds are going to merge. Is the UAE going to invade Singapore too? Or vice versa?

  15. As part of their QF Partnership they probably have inbound Aussie pax requiring a long aircraft ground delay in SG. My guess would be that they’ve calculated it is cheaper to fly to PEN return (presumably their break even load factor is lower than normal considering high parking cost in SG).

    This was the nexus of EK’s AU-NZ flights – no way there’s sufficient demand for A380 between NZ-SYD (already flooded with NZ, QF capacity).

    My guess for crew rostering would be that this would be a “turnaround” flight on day 2 of their SG legs. Quite common for airlines to do this.

  16. It probably makes more sense for them to fly first to Penang, and then to Singapore. Shaves off a few hundred km, which in turn translate to fuel savings and in turn, lower emissions and cost savings

  17. HAHA
    QR IS WAY STRONGER THAN EK IN SOUTHEASTASIAN MARKET.(Danang,rangkawi,krabi,chiangmai etc)
    That 5th route is triggered to QR.
    For that layover hour, they’d get off in penang since dxb-sin route isnt that longhaul.

  18. And now, they’ve pushed back their start date to 1st May (supposedly) leaving customers who’ve booked in a complete lurch.

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