Straits Times: S'pore-China air links flying higher than ever
By Karamjit Kaur Aviation Correspondent
TRAVELLERS flying to China from Singapore are benefiting from more destinations, flights and carriers as competition in the market continues to grow.
In the past few days, airlines have launched new flights from Singapore to Jinan, Lijiang and Nanchang - cities known for their history, culture and beauty.
When services to Guilin start in the coming weeks, Changi will be linked to 28 cities in China - more than for any other country from the airport.
Singapore will also have more air links to China than any other South-east Asian nation.
Between January and September, the number of travellers between the two countries passed 3.5 million. The 9 per cent jump compared with the same nine months last year outpaced the airport's overall traffic increase of 5.6 per cent.
Travel agents and industry analysts attribute the boom to the liberalisation of China's air sector and its growing middle class who have boosted full-service carriers and particularly budget ones like Tigerair, Jetstar and Scoot.
Singapore residents are also travelling more often, especially within the region.
CTC Travel spokesman Alicia Seah said: "This is a market where inbound demand is stronger. China is a huge country. The Chinese consider Singapore a paradise destination because of the security, good shopping, clean air and zero language barrier."
Budget carriers venturing into secondary markets have also provided "convenient and affordable access" to less accessible destinations, said a spokesman for travel agent Chan Brothers, giving Nanjing, Qingdao, Shenyang and Tianjin as examples.
Changi Airport Group has had an "active role" in developing new links with China such as by leading business trips for travel agents and industry partners.
"China remains a key market for Changi," said Mr Lim Ching Kiat, its senior vice-president for market development. "There is growth potential for us to reach out to secondary cities in China, on top of traffic to the key metropolitan cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou." More destinations are being explored, he said.
A growing number of Chinese travellers - 563,000 in the 12 months to the end of August - are stopping in Singapore when flying to other destinations, like Jakarta and Bali in Indonesia.
With more air links between China and Singapore and 12 carriers operating 590 weekly flights between the countries, fares have become increasingly competitive.
For example, travellers can fly from Singapore to Beijing return for as little as $500, compared to more than $800 a few years back.
Finance manager L.S Tan, 48, recently returned from a 14-day Silk Road tour, which cost just over $2,000. He said: "The price covered my flights, accommodation, meals and ground transport which is very affordable."
Mr Tan, who has picked China as a holiday spot for the past three years, said: "So far, I have focused only on the north. There's still so much to see and do in China."