More flights in Asia may cause airfares to drop, but this may take time

Many flights that were canceled during the pandemic are returning to the skies this month.

Last week, Singapore Airlines and Scoot announced they are adding dozens of flights to cities across Asia. Citing strong demand and relaxed border restrictions, both airlines announced more flights between Singapore and Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Scoot is also bringing back twice-weekly flights to Yogyakarta and Pekanbaru in October.

Most of the flights are reinstated, but Scoot is adding a few new routes. This month, it will begin flying from Singapore to Lombok and Makassar, Indonesia. Scoot is also adding a seasonal direct flight to Sapporo for travelers looking to hit the slopes in Japan this winter.

Both airlines are preparing for more flights to China. Singapore Airlines launched services to Beijing in September; this month it will begin flying to Chengdu, with another weekly flight to Shenzhen. Scoot already flies to four Chinese cities, with flights to Wuhan and Zhengzhou starting this week.

Scoot is not the only low-cost carrier increasing services in the region. Cebu Pacific is relaunching its first international route from Davao to Singapore this month. And AirAsia is resuming several flights between Malaysia and Indonesia, including a new route connecting Bali with Penang.

On the heels of Hong Kong’s relaxed border restrictionsannounced plans by Cathay Pacific’s budget carrier HK Express to add more than 400 flights connecting Hong Kong to Singapore, Bangkok and several cities in Japan by the end of the year.

More flights, cheaper airfare?

James Marshall, vice president of global air at Expedia Group, told “Squawk Box Asia” On Monday, the limited flight choice for travelers in Asia was “one of the reasons why prices were quite high.”

“The fact that airlines are increasing their capacity is a very good thing,” he said. But as to whether airfares are peaking right now, Marshall said, “It’s very hard to say.”

Singapore Airlines and Scoot are adding more flights to cities across Asia

One problem is that the industry continues to struggle with a lack of staff. Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association, a professional association representing Cathay Pacific pilots, warned last week that due to staff shortages, “air fares will continue to rise due to low supply combined with high demand” – a situation that will plague Hong Kong for “many years.”

Staffing issues were blamed for travel chaos in Europe and North America last summer — a problem Asian airlines do not want to repeat, Marshall said.

“Airlines in the Asia-Pacific have been very careful how they deal with the increase … to make sure they are staffed at the right level so we don’t end up with operational problems like we’ve seen in other regions,” said he .

If airlines remain cautious about adding new flights and demand remains strong — especially with the Christmas travel season closing in — cheaper airfares may not materialize for some time.

“Obviously we are optimistic about the opening and the reduction of capacity, but the demand is still very strong, especially towards the end of the year,” Marshall said.

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