More Singapore travellers are booking premium economy – and prices are now S$600 cheaper on some routes: report

Singapore Airlines’ direct flights from Singapore to US cities such as New York have led to premium economy bookings from Singapore to the US recording the strongest surge.
Lianhe Zaobao

In a sign that consumers want better experiences without having to pay exorbitant prices, more Singapore travellers are choosing premium economy seats when they fly, a report by travel site Skyscanner has said.

According to the company’s APAC Travel Trends Report for 2020, Singapore travellers booked 50 per cent more premium economy seats and 18 per cent more business class seats in 2019 compared to the year before.

This could have been driven by an overall decrease in both premium economy and business class fares by 9 per cent and 5 per cent respectively, the report said.

Thanks to Singapore Airlines’ new direct flights from Singapore to the US, premium economy bookings from Singapore to US cities recorded the strongest surge, Skyscanner said.

Premium economy tickets from Singapore to US cities were up to 34 per cent cheaper in 2019. Prices to San Francisco, for instance, were S$637 cheaper.

More specifically, premium economy bookings from Singapore to New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco registered growths of 191 per cent, 175 per cent and 68 per cent respectively.

Fares for premium economy seats on these routes were also cheaper by 28 per cent, 34 per cent and 29 per cent compared to 2018. Prices to San Francisco, for instance, were S$637 cheaper this year, Skyscanner said.

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The report – which uses proprietary data extracted from Skyscanner’s analysis of 100 million users and an Asia Pacific survey that included 715 Singapore respondents – also said there were significant increases of premium economy bookings on flights to Tokyo (61 per cent) and London (16 per cent).

And while business class bookings to further destinations like Shanghai and London grew 92 per cent and 37 per cent respectively, bookings in this class dipped 17 per cent on flights to Tokyo. Correspondingly, business class tickets to Shanghai and London were cheaper by 18 per cent and 2 per cent, while those to Tokyo increased by 12 per cent.

Top destinations still Bangkok, Manila and KL – but Busan and Trivandrum emerging

While average flight prices from Singapore increased by an average of 2 per cent in 2019, some “value destinations” such as Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, Kolkata in India and Japan’s Fukuoka were cheaper by up to 20 per cent.

Instead of New Delhi, Tokyo or Kuala Lumpur, Skyscanner said travellers can think about visiting “value destinations”, which have had price drops over the last year and offer comparable experiences.

According to Skyscanner, one out of five Singaporeans also went on a “micro escape” this year. These trips range from three to seven days and serve as “temporary breathers for Singaporeans throughout the year without having to sacrifice too much family time or work commitments”, Skyscanner said.

The preference for such short getaways also explains why Singapore’s top five most popular destinations for the year were all located within Asia – Bangkok, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and Taipei.

In addition, the cheapest fares to these top destinations were often found around seven to eight weeks before the flight. Tickets to Manila, for example, were up to S$85 cheaper when booked seven weeks in advance.

Booking a flight to Bangkok seven weeks in advance in 2019 would have netted travellers savings of around S$34 from the most booked price.

Emerging destinations on Singapore travellers’ lists this year include Busan in South Korea, which registered 84 per cent more bookings in 2019, and India’s Trivandrum, which saw a 61 per cent year-on-year growth in bookings.

Istanbul is Singapore’s top emerging destination, rising 18 places from last year’s ranking.

Among other key trends for Singapore travellers, Skyscanner said slow travel saw a 20 per cent uptick from 2018 to 2019.

Slow travel involves visiting idyllic locations such as small towns, villages and farms instead of classic holiday destinations. Some examples identified by Skyscanner include Budapest in Hungary, Japan’s Takamatsu, Chiang Mai in Thailand and Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands.

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