Singapore Airlines low-cost offshoot, Scoot, are starting flights between Singapore and Athens on the 20th of June next year and are marketing it pretty heavily as a cheap way to fly between Australia and Europe.
I’ve spoken to a bunch of people who seem genuinely excited by the promise of ~AU$840 return fares to Greece but I’m just not convinced. I remember when AirAsia used to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Gatwick and Orly and actually flew it once all the way from Melbourne to London. It was an absolute bargain at the time, if memory serves it was about 300 bucks one way. I realise that’s not all that much different to $420 one way, especially considering it was a good few years ago but there’s a few reasons I’m not seeing this as a great deal.
The competition from low cost carriers has continued to drive down economy class pricing on legacy carriers and it’s not uncommon for the Chinese carriers to have sale fares comparable to Scoot’s launch sale. Even top tier carriers like Qatar Airways have sale fares to Europe from Australia for ~AU$1100 return from time to time.
That means per direction the marginal cost between Scoot and Qatar Airways on a 20+ hour trip can be as low as $130. Even less if you’re adding baggage etc. As an indication of what those extras cost on this route, to add a 20kg checked bag the price is AU$94 per person per direction. For the add-on that includes a 20kg bag, a meal, a drink and a snack it’s AU$159 per person per direction.
So assuming you are able to get the cheapest price in both directions but add a meal and a bag in both directions, the total price is now AU$1156. Except it’s not because you still need to add a AU$40 processing fee, making the cheapest possible ticket (assuming you need a bag for your European holiday and that you require food to live) AU$1196. So now Scoot’s launch sale pricing is more expensive than your average Qatar Airways sale even before you add the US$11 per sector for the ability to stream entertainment on your own device. Either way though, there doesn’t seem to be an awful amount of availability at the advertised prices so a return ticket is going to be closer to AU$1800+ most of the time.
Scoot to Europe
Athens also seems like an odd choice. I realise connections from there to the rest of Europe are plentiful and relatively cheap but it’s not going to be as popular an end destination as London, Paris, Rome or many of the other European capitals. I’m guessing that quite a few people will use this route as a way of getting into Europe and then get another low cost carrier connection into their final destination which adds to the ticket price, travel time and cost of ancillary services such as luggage.
While the transit in Singapore on the outbound journey from Sydney is “only” 7 hours, on the way back it’s about 23 hours, meaning a total travel time of 40 hours to get back from Athens. The one good thing about these long transits is that you won’t need to pay the additional AU$20 per person per direction fee for them to check you through Singapore. Were the connection a more civilised two or three hours, you’d definitely need to pay for this service as you wouldn’t comfortably have enough time to collect your bags, go through immigration, check-in for the next leg, get back through security and get to your gate.
I actually have no problem with the low cost carrier model and use them quite a bit for domestic and short haul point to point flights and beyond a bad experience with Ryanair have not had too much to complain about. However, the reason I use them is because they are substantially cheaper than full service carriers. I just can’t understand how excited some people seem to be getting over ticket prices that are more than on some legacy carriers. On such a long journey.
I can appreciate that these flights could be a totally reasonable way to get to Athens for those based in Singapore but I’m really struggling to see it as a competitive option for Australians.