Airlines are adding more flights in Asia. Here’s how that may affect airfares

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

Last week, Singapore Airlines and Scoot announced they’re 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 bringing back twice-weekly flights to Yogyakarta and Pekanbaru in October too.

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

Both airlines are gearing up for more flights to China. Singapore Airlines launched services to Beijing in September; this month, it will start flying to Chengdu, with a second weekly flight going to Shenzhen. Scoot is already flying into four Chinese cities, with flights to Wuhan and Zhengzhou starting this week.

Scoot isn’t the only budget carrier ramping up services in the region. Cebu Pacific is restarting its first international route from Davao to Singapore this month. And AirAsia is resuming several flights between Malaysia and Indonesia, including a new route linking Bali to Penang.

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

More flights, cheaper airfare?

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

“The fact that airlines are increasing their capacity is a very good thing,” he said. But as for whether flight prices are at their peak right now, Marshall said, “It’s very difficult to say.”   

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

Staffing problems were blamed for the travel chaos in Europe and North America last summer — a problem Asian airlines don’t want to repeat, said Marshall.

“Airlines in Asia-Pacific have been very careful on how they manage the increase … ensuring that they get staffed at the right level so we don’t end up with operational issues that we’ve seen in other regions,” he said.

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

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

Sophie Tremblay

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