Staff writer Singapore Airlines hopes to increase its share of the passenger market for travel between Japan and Singapore by upgrading in-flight services and forming an alliance of multiple carriers, says T.K. Tan, general manager of the company’s Japan office. “Our strategy is to emphasize our products and services,” said Tan, who took up the post in October. “We hope to get 6 percent growth (in passengers from Japan to Singapore and beyond) next year.” The airline currently handles about 50 percent of the bilateral aviation market. The airline spent 500 million Singaporean dollars ($300 million) since September 1998 on upgrading equipment and services in the cabin for all three classes — first, business and economy — to be more competitive, Tan said. For example, an advanced entertainment-on-demand system that enables passengers to access 60 programs, including music, movies, news and TV games, whenever they want was introduced in June in the first- and business-class sections on some flights. The system will be made available on Tokyo-Singapore flights by mid-2000, according to the airline. Singapore Airlines’ planned participation in Star Alliance, a strategic partnership of major international carriers, will help it increase riders, Tan said. Singapore Airlines will join the alliance in April as its 12th member. The alliance, formed in 1997, has 10 member carriers, including United Airlines, Lufthansa German Airlines and All Nippon Airways. “The major benefit of joining Star Alliance is expansion of our route network,” Tan said, noting that joining the group will enable his airline to offer improved services, including convenient flight schedules, joint use of lounges and frequent-flyer programs. Singapore Airlines will also start discussions with ANA early next year on code-sharing operations and cooperation in other areas, Tan said. As for the Y2K computer problem, Tan said the airline has already checked its critical systems, including ticketing and aircraft control, using simulations. “Singapore Airlines started working on the Y2K problem three years ago,” Tan said. “We can say that we are Y2K-ready and we are confident (of flight safety).” The airline has canceled some New Year’s Day flights and has made contingency plans in each department to handle unforeseen problems, he added. According to Tan, Singapore Airlines saw net profits during the April-September period increase 26.9 percent from a year ago to S$507 million (32.2 billion) yen, while most of East and Southeast Asia was still recovering from economic crises. As the airline attempts to lure more Japanese passengers, Tan still views Japan’s economic recovery as a very slow process but hopes to see a full-scale recovery next year. “We will continue to provide high-level services to our customers, and we are trying to look at how to streamline some of the (boarding) procedures to make it more convenient,” he added.
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