SIA pips Qatar Airways to top Skytrax poll on world’s best airline

It is the fifth time SIA has taken home the gold prize.

Kok Yufeng

Kok Yufeng

The Straits Times


It is the fifth time that Singapore Airlines has taken home the gold prize. PHOTO: ST FILE

June 21, 2023

SINGAPORE – National carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) has been voted the world’s best airline in a global poll of more than 20 million travellers, wresting the top spot from Qatar Airways.

In 2019, 2021 and 2022, SIA had finished second behind the Middle Eastern carrier in the annual world rankings done by London-based research firm Skytrax.

Travellers of more than 100 nationalities rated over 325 airlines in surveys conducted between September 2022 and May 2023.

Based on the poll, Qatar Airways was ranked second, Japan’s All Nippon Airways was in third place, with Emirates and Japan Airlines coming in fourth and fifth, respectively.

It is the fifth time SIA has taken home the gold prize.

The airline also bagged the Best First Class Airline, Best First Class Comfort Amenities, and Best Airline in Asia titles at the 2023 Skytrax World Airline Awards ceremony, which was held on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show.

SIA budget arm Scoot was named the best long-haul low-cost airline, and ranked second in the world’s best low-cost airline category.

SIA chief executive Goh Choon Phong, who was in Paris to receive the top prize, said the award is a testament to the hard work and sacrifice made by company employees during the Covid-19 pandemic. This work ensured that the flag carrier was ready for the recovery in air travel after border restrictions were lifted, and it allowed SIA to emerge “stronger and fitter”, he said in a statement.

In May, SIA and Scoot carried a combined 2.8 million passengers, a year-on-year increase of 65.8 per cent.

SIA Group’s passenger load factor – a measure of the percentage of seats filled – remained close to record highs, coming in at 88 per cent for the month.

For the 2022/2023 financial year, the airline posted record revenue and profit numbers, with a net profit of $2.16 billion for the year ended March 31.

A year earlier, it had posted a loss of $962 million.

However, it has not been all rosy for SIA in 2023 as it has had to deal with a chorus of complaints regarding service quality and what has been perceived by some as cost-cutting measures.

Earlier in June, SIA reinstated menu items such as appetisers and bread rolls to meal trays, following negative feedback from passengers about the quality of food served in economy class.

The Singapore carrier has also not been spared the supply chain issues faced by airlines around the world, including delivery delays for new planes on its order book, such as the Boeing 777-9.

As at May, US jet maker Boeing had a backlog of more than 4,600 aircraft.

Independent analyst Brendan Sobie of Sobie Aviation said that SIA Group has more than fully recovered from a revenue and profit perspective, but has still not fully recovered from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic from a capacity or passenger traffic perspective.

“It is the ‘last mile’, the last 10 per cent or so of capacity, that will be the hardest to achieve,” Mr Sobie said.

He also pointed out that the favourable market conditions that SIA benefited from over the past year, such as high air fares, the supply-demand imbalance and less-than-normal competition, are not expected to continue.

It is a matter of when, not if, these conditions change, Mr Sobie added.

“The expectation would be more of a soft landing than a hard landing, but no one really knows when that landing will occur,” he said.

“SIA, more than virtually anyone else in Asia, has benefited from this kind of honeymoon period between the pandemic and the new normal.

“All the credit to SIA management, employees and the Singapore Government for the incredible success that SIA has enjoyed during this period, but at some point, it will end.”

Mr Joshua Ng, director at Alton Aviation Consultancy, said delays to the delivery of new aircraft may put a cap on SIA’s top-line growth, but may also help sustain profitability.

“There’s not so much capacity in the market, so they can fly passengers at high fares,” he said.

Renewed competition from Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific and Chinese airlines will be a challenge, so SIA needs to continue to innovate, said Mr Ng.

“There’s a big push to continue to stay premium, so continued investment in products is important,” he added.

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