Is Singapore Airlines Launching A New York To Tokyo Flight?

Filed Under: Singapore

I’m not quite sure what to make of this, though if anything comes of it, I imagine it will happen very soon.

Singapore Airlines Granted New York To Tokyo Rights

On December 30, 2019, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, granted Singapore Airlines permission to operate nonstop flights between New York and Tokyo.

This was initially requested in June 2019 for a March 2020 launch date, though I imagine that timeline could slip based on how long it took for the permission to be granted.

This was being proposed as part of an overall fifth freedom route, so presumably the flight would operate from Singapore to New York via Tokyo, with passengers being allowed to book any portion of that trip.

It’s noted that this route would be operated in cooperation with All Nippon Airways:

  • All Nippon Airways already has a transpacific joint venture with United, and Singapore Airlines can’t easily join that
  • So it sounds to me like they might just codeshare, or something, though I’m not sure I see the upside for ANA here

ANA offers their new cabins on flights between New York and Tokyo

While the permission has now been granted, we haven’t publicly heard anything from the airline regarding their plans just yet.

Singapore Airlines’ Current US Route Network

Currently Singapore Airlines operates both nonstop flights from the US to Singapore, as well as fifth freedom flights. The airline:

  • Flies nonstop from Singapore to Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, and Seattle
  • Operates a fifth freedom route from Singapore to Manchester to Houston
  • Operates a fifth freedom route from Singapore to Frankfurt to New York
  • Operates a fifth freedom route from Singapore to Hong Kong to San Francisco
  • Operates a fifth freedom route from Singapore to Tokyo to Los Angeles

Singapore Airlines currently flies to six US airports

Could This Route Actually Launch?

Singapore Airlines is conservative with their growth, so I’d be very curious to know what the airline is thinking here.

First of all, I can’t imagine they’re considering adding an additional frequency to New York, so is the airline thinking of ending their New York to Singapore via Frankfurt route, and replacing it with a route via Tokyo?

The route via Tokyo would be marginally shorter (going via Frankfurt is ~10,245 miles, going via Tokyo is ~10,069 miles).

As far as the fifth freedom portion of the route goes, I could also see New York to Tokyo being higher yielding than New York to Frankfurt, based on how low Singapore Airlines’ New York to Frankfurt fares consistently are. US to Europe is competitive, and while US to much of Asia is as well, North Asia is largely spared from that (since Chinese airlines are destroying yields on US to China/Southeast Asia fares).

The March 2020 launch date is logical, given that it’s before the 2020 Olympics and even before Cherry Blossom, though this would also mean that Singapore Airlines will be launching the route with only a couple of months notice, and that’s not something the airline usually does.

That’s especially true if the airline were planning on operating this route in lieu of the Frankfurt route — I can’t imagine the airline would cut the route with just a couple of months notice.

Singapore Airlines’ New York to Frankfurt route is operated by an A380

Bottom Line

For now we’ll just have to mark this as “developing.” Singapore Airlines did request the permission for this route well over six months ago, so it took them a long time to get the necessary approval.

To me it seems likely that this is something they were considering, so they decided to get the permission and then make a final decision, given how long approval can take.

Personally I’m not convinced we’ll see a New York to Tokyo route on Singapore Airlines, though I think if it does launch, it would be in place of the current New York to Frankfurt route, since I can’t imagine they’d operate three daily flights to New York.

Let’s also keep in mind that in addition to all of this, Singapore Airlines is expected to launch an additional A350-900ULR route next fall. We don’t know where to, though given the plane’s range, a nonstop Singapore to North America flight seems highly likely.

What do you make of Singapore Airlines’ New York to Tokyo fifth freedom rights?

  1. JFK-HND-SIN much more attractive flight than JFK-FRA-SIN. FRA is just an awful place, and the timing of the sectors makes it rough to get decent sleep (especially heading eastbound). Much more unmet demand JFK-HND than JFK-FRA, and no shortage of HND-SIN pax, more than sufficient for another frequency. Good news all around — though I would prefer a second daily nonstop (given the surge in traffic to SIN recently as business avoids HKG, seems to me this could happen too).

  2. @eponymous coward LAX seems to have trouble filling a single nonstop. Doubt they would want to add a second.

    My bet is that they will add non-daily frequencies to JFK and GRU.

  3. If I lived in New York or Singapore and wanted to fly from one city to another via Tokyo… I’m not sure I’d go with Singapore as my first choice. ANA & JAL are both excellent carriers. Guess ultimately it’ll come down to price and schedule

  4. MAK:

    I highly doubt SQ will get rights out of HND. NRT most likely. I can’t imagine the fits US carriers would throw if a non US/Japan carrier was awarded slots for HND-USA.

  5. @ Mak — Unfortunately there’s no way they can get a further HND slot as part of the current airport agreement, so this route would most definitely be to & from NRT. And the March start date is no coincidence, as it comes when many airlines are ditching NRT in favor of HND.

  6. SQ can only operate out of NRT as HND will not allow a fifth freedom due to slot control. That being said there will be 4 HND-JFK/EWR (JL 2 NH 1 UA 1) frequencies and 3 NRT-JFK/EWR (SQ UA NH) frequencies.

  7. My dream come true! Favorite airline with favorite destination! Can’t wIt for the this to come to reality!

  8. JFK-FRA-SIN is the A380 daily with first class. With the retrofit to the newer 1-1 layout, that leaves 6 seats daily in time to come. Adding another 77W with (1-2-1) first class will add either 4 or 8 first class seats daily to replace the lost capacity…

  9. @Lucky, why is it the case they definitely wouldn’t just add a frequency to NY (perhaps switching to a smaller plane on the JFK-FRA-SIN route)? It seems like there’s tons of premium demand on JFK-NRT and NRT-SIN, so would it really be crazy for them to operate both for a while? Maybe so, you just don’t explain why that’s crazy in your post.

  10. @Ben (Lucky) This isn’t immediately clear to me. Singapore and the United States have a separate “Multilateral Agreement on the Liberalization of Air Transport” Treaty (the so-called Kona Agreement) which provides for open access and other liberalizations for Singapore, US, NZ, Brunei (and maybe some other) carriers to each other’s markets. If Japan were to make the HND slot available or if NH were to cede SQ a slot for a joint venture, on quick reading it seems possible that MALAT would grant SQ access to US markets notwithstanding the US Bilateral with Japan.

    Either way, I would still prefer JFK-NRT-SIN over JFK-FRA-SIN.

  11. @ Mak — You’re absolutely right that the agreement between the US and Singapore would allow this, but the agreement between the US and Japan wouldn’t, since these slots are awarded on a bilateral basis.

    Furthermore, I can’t see any scenario under which ANA would actually be in favor of this. They have a transpacific join venture with United, so at most they’d be codesharing with Singapore Airlines on a route on which they’re directly competing. Furthermore, they’ve already announced routes for all of the US to Haneda slots that have been granted to them.

  12. @ John — It’s not completely impossible, but Singapore Airlines is just very conservative. For example, when they added nonstop San Francisco to Singapore flights, they also cut San Francisco to Incheon to Singapore flights (and transferred them down to LA). When they added nonstop Los Angeles to Singapore flights, they also cut Los Angeles to Incheon to Singapore flights.

    Singapore Airlines has already added significant capacity to New York, as they previously only flew via Frankfurt, but now fly nonstop as well. So to add even more capacity just seems out of character for the airline.

  13. @ DT — I think the reduction in first class more closely aligns with demand on most routes, so that they can maximize yields for the seats that they do sell. I don’t see them adding a 20,000 mile roundtrip flight so that they can add four additional first class seats to a market.

  14. This would be great news. We have now more flights to HND from NYC and United has just doubled their capacity from EWR to Japan.

    I would love to see Singapore fly NYC-Tokyo, they would thrive.

    United has also doubled down on their Frankfurt route adding another flight from EWR. If Singapore were to exit the NYC-Frankfurt market, we all know that Emirates is eager for that route which is sure to cause a stir among the big three us carriers.

  15. @Ben (Lucky) Again, I’m not so sure about your conclusions. The Amendments to the U.S.-Japan Bilateral merely allocate a minimum number of Haneda slots for US and Japanese carriers to the US. It says nothing about availability of slots at Haneda for non-US Carriers, and seems to me Japan can award them to whomever it wants. Since the Multilateral Agreement provides unrestricted route rights for Singaporean carriers to the US (1st through 6th Freedoms for passengers and 7th Freedom for Cargo) I think SQ could use the slot to fly to the US.

  16. “I can’t imagine the airline would cut the route with just a couple of months notice”

    They’d only be “cutting” the route for JFK-FRA traffic and FRA-JFK. JFK-SIN/SIN-JFK traffic will just fly the new routing … nobody was guaranteed a stop in FRA. Those pax flying JFK-FRA can easily be re-acommodated on LH.

    The real challenge is selling tickets from NYC to Tokyo and v/v on such little notice with no time to advertise, get corporate contracts, etc.

  17. Well – if there is any airline that could pull off adding service to the NYC-Tokyo market – I would be SQ

  18. @Lucky: could this be about aircraft utilization? The inbound FRA-JFK arrives in the morning then flight sits at JFK all day before turning around for its night departure back to FRA. They could turn the aircraft after arriving from FRA onto Tokyo, and the schedule the Tokyo-JFK leg so that aircraft could make the evening JFK-FRA route.

  19. the ministry spokeperson says ANA and SIA wanted to increase cooperation through further codeshares. Not sure if he means connecting flights from TYO to other asian countries by ANA or ANA and SIA codeshare on TYO-NYC flight.

  20. I wonder if they can operate this in a one way stop in addition to FRA, to reduce time and fuel consumption, taking advantage of tailwind. So SIN -> NRT -> JFK -> FRA -> SIN.

  21. Tahsin: I wonder if they can operate this in a one way stop in addition to FRA, to reduce time and fuel consumption, taking advantage of tailwind. So SIN -> NRT -> JFK -> FRA -> SIN.

    If that happens, then the stop is only in one direction, making it like a technical stop. If so, a cheaper, obscure airport would work.

  22. So SQ would be the first and only airline in the world offering round-the-world trips on one single airline. While it might not bring in big money, it could get them some valuable publicity. A true world airline.

  23. I’ve never found the fares on SIA between FRA-NYC to be attractive.

    Equally and perhaps strangely there is no codeshare on the sector with Lufthansa and LH will route you almost any route to NYC e.g via BRU, VIE or ZRH but not offer you the SIA option so I guess the market for it on an A380 is not great and richer pickings may be made elsewhere. They could easily cut the NYC service and return the A380 to SIN 24 hours earlier.

  24. SQ and MH used to fly TPE-LAX but eventually was not compatible to the local carrier (BR and CI) and cancel services eventually. My guessing is SQ would be very hesitant to repeat the same mistake.

  25. Well I took advantage of recent fare sales and booked Singapore JFK-FRA in mid March. Got a great price and really looking forward to trying their service since it is highly rated. Hopefully the JFK-FRA flight will at least go through March so I get this in. I’ll definitely check back to make sure there aren’t any changes but, as Ben noted, I would think more than a couple months notice would be given if the flight to FRA was dropped.

  26. I’m a regular flyer on FRA to NYC and prefer SQ as they’re the first flight to leave. You arrive at ~11am in JFK and it has a perfect depature time at ~8pm, so great for maximizing business trips.

    Business class is typically well booked, so not sure if they want to exit that market.

  27. @Shannon, I believe it’s unlikely SQ would pursue TPE again, as SQ and BR have a codeshare agreement on their TPE-SIN flights (and on some of BR’s US bound flights), on top of their Star Alliance partnership.

  28. Wonder if Singapore ever tried pursuing fifth freedom rights with Mainland China for routes between SIN-PVG and North America?

  29. Singapore already codeshares with ANA on their route from JFK-HND as SQ 5915/5916. SQ also codeshares with another ANA flight from IAD to NRT. Looks like they are creeping in on the partnership between United and ANA. So it is not impossible that SQ would codeshare with ANA on the JFK-NRT route, as opposed to operating their own route.

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