Movie screenings, cockpit tours on grounded planes among counter-proposals to SIA’s ‘flights to nowhere’

One suggestion from a member of the public is that the cabins of grounded SIA aircraft could be used to hold match-making sessions. — TODAY pic
One suggestion from a member of the public is that the cabins of grounded SIA aircraft could be used to hold match-making sessions. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Sept 15 — Members of the public have come up with hundreds of ideas to help Singapore Airlines (SIA) generate much-needed revenue amid the Covid-19 pandemic, such as using grounded planes to show movies or hold match-making sessions, with prices varying depending on whether customers are in economy, business or first class.

The ideas are being put forward in a bid to avert a proposal that SIA is reportedly considering: Starting “flights to nowhere”, where passengers fly out of Singapore and back without landing anywhere else, as a way to generate revenue.

The collation of ideas began when four environmentalists from environmental group Neighbourhood Greenwatch, banded together in a bid to protest the supposed plan, which was first reported by The Straits Times on Sunday (Sept 13).

“We started brainstorming (in our Telegram chat group) about ways that SIA could generate income without causing more harm to the environment. Someone in the group suggested that we create a submission form for people to submit their ideas,” said Melanie Ang, who is one of the organisers of the “Save SIA” initiative.

Besides Ang, 26, a content creator, the other organisers are: Chevon Low, 30, a board member at non-profit organisation People’s Movement to Stop Haze, Sean Yap, 21, a first-year undergraduate from the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Mark Tszo, 37, who is currently looking for a job.

In response to queries from TODAY, SIA said today that it is considering several initiatives which would allow it to continue engaging its customers and members of the public, although none of these plans has been firmed up.

“We would also like to thank our customers and members of the public for their interest and feedback. As previously indicated, we will make an announcement at the appropriate time if we go ahead with any of the initiatives,” said an SIA spokesperson.

From plane tours to in-flight dining

As of yesterday, the organisers of Save SIA had received more than 500 submissions from the public since submissions opened on Saturday, said Ang.

Other proposals from the public include a behind-the-scenes look of the plane’s cockpit and its operations, creating an airline-themed dining experience within planes, and selling airline credits which people may use to purchase flights in future.

Ang said that submissions will close on Sept 20, following which the organisers will send SIA all the ideas, including a list of the 10 most feasible ideas.

“We hope that SIA will pause the launch (of flights to nowhere) and consider other options, but if they don’t do that, we hope they will at least clarify why they chose to go ahead with it despite other sustainable options,” said Ang.

The aviation industry generated 915 million tonnes of carbon emissions last year, accounting for 2 per cent of global greenhouse emissions, although a study by Australia Institute, an environmental think-tank, predicted that emissions could drop by 38 per cent this year due to flights grounded by the pandemic.

‘Flights to nowhere generates income but other options available'

Aviation analysts told TODAY that while flights to nowhere could generate short-term revenue for SIA, there were downsides such as the lack of recurring revenue and a hit to its corporate image.

Independent aviation analyst Mr Brendan Sobie said that flights to nowhere would be an opportunity for SIA to utilise its aircraft and crew, while generating revenue at the same time.

He noted that other national airline carriers such as Royal Brunei Airlines and Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways have also done so, and that airlines would consider this plan if there was interest in the market.

The best way forward however, would be for the Government to open up more green lanes for leisure travel so that SIA can resume more flights, making flights to nowhere unnecessary, he added.

Echoing Sobie’s sentiments, Priveen Raj Naidu, also an independent analyst, said that flights to nowhere are a way for SIA to “flip the cost (of under-utilised flights) into revenue”.

However, he noted that customers may find it inconvenient to adhere to the strict safety measures for Covid-19, such as having to don masks and gloves on the plane, despite the novelty of the experience.

From a business perspective, it would also not generate recurring revenue as people are unlikely to go on multiple flights, he added.

Naidu agreed that some of the proposals put forth by the public, such as an airline-themed dining experience, could be more appealing to consumers.

Conducting tours of the plane would also be an opportunity for SIA to allay passenger concerns over the risks of contracting Covid-19 on a flight in future.

David Leo, an aviation veteran with three decades in the industry, said that launching flights to nowhere would dent SIA’s image in a period where there is heightened awareness of environmental issues.

“It would not be good for SIA’s corporate image as the proposition is likely to invite criticism from environmentally-conscious groups, and smacks of insincerity and hypocrisy,” said Mr Leo, referring to pledges made by SIA to reduce its carbon footprint, such as investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft. — TODAY

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