SIA introduces 'quirky' budget carrier, Scoot

Ewen Boey

Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) new low-cost carrier aims to set itself apart from other budget airlines with its swanky name – Scoot – and a quirky attitude.

The unusual name was chosen for the medium-to-long-haul budget carrier as a means to stand out from the pack, and to reflect a certain level of informality and quirkiness.

“We chose the name ‘Scoot’ for many reasons, not least because it’s different. Rather than the tried and tired ‘airlines’ this, ‘airways’ that or ‘air’ yawn, it’s short, sharp and snappy. It stands out,” said Scoot CEO Campbell Wilson at the carrier’s media conference on Tuesday.

“We have a very different attitude… We have a short, sharp name that exemplifies that attitude that we want more of our staff to have to interact with others. We have a unique attitude and we want our staff to have ‘Scootitude’,” he added.

From holding their media conference at Yello Jello, a club at Clarke Quay (probably to reflect the airline’s main colour code), the team from Scoot were eager to portray their unconventional attitude by instilling some comic relief and having people on skate scooters appear, handing out freebies and asking invited guests present to “smile”.

With their first flight set for the end of the first half of 2012, Scoot will offer a no-frills flying experience for customers at airfares 40 per cent less than legacy carriers. They will start with a fleet of four Boeing 777-200 aircraft.

“By the end of next year, we plan to have four planes. We will start with four, and add around two aircraft a year after that so by the middle decade we’ll have around 14 aircraft,” said Wilson.

Wilson also assured those concerned with going on medium-to-long-haul flights without much sitting space -- Scoot’s wide-body aircraft will not compromise on seat size, but rather, aisle width in its 3-4-3 seats configuration in its economy cabin.

“10-abreast (a width of 10 seats) is not uncommon in the airline industry, with many reputable carriers also operating on 10-abreast for the 777 aircraft,” said Scoot’s chief executive.

“Seats in the premium cabin are a little over 21 inches wide while economy class seats will be around 19 inches,” he added.

When asked if Scoot will be a direct competitor to Tiger Airways, which is partially owned by SIA, Wilson pointed out that the latter focuses on short-haul flights using narrow-body jets, while the former will be flying medium-to-long-haul using wide-body aircraft.

He also emphasised that Scoot will not look to take any existing routes covered by SIA. He added that as a 100 per cent subsidiary of SIA, Scoot’s mandate will be to add incremental traffic to the SIA group.

Wilson declined to reveal Scoot’s destinations to the media as they are still in the process of negotiating with airports and tourism bodies. He did reveal, however, that there will be destinations to China and Australia.

In the works are also plans to fly to India, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

“It is our intention to operate to Europe at some point, but we need to walk before we run,” said Wilson, who did not rule out flights to the United States in the longer term as well.

Scoot is expected to compete directly with AirAsia X, the long-haul affiliate of Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia and British tycoon Richard Branson's Virgin Group.

Earlier this year, when plans for a low-cost carrier were announced by SIA, AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes tweeted, “Singapore Airlines to set up a long haul low cost carrier. Hahahaha. Déjà vu. AirAsia staff should be proud that we have been copied again. Will be same result like Tiger.”

In another tweet, Fernandes mocked, “Wonder if Singapore Airlines will call it Singapore X.”