Asia's newest long-haul budget carrier Scoot took off on its maiden flight from Singapore to Sydney Monday, using a novel approach to saving fuel: iPads.
The Singapore-based carrier hopes to tap into Asia's growing demand for no-frills travel while simultaneously combating surging fuel costs.
"Scoot is all about empowerment," said Campbell Wilson, Scoot's CEO. "Our unashamed focus on being low cost empowers more people to travel, and travel farther, than ever before. Our service philosophy is underpinned by the belief that guests shouldn't subsidize the choices of others, and empowers them to select only the frills they really value."
Singapore Airlines launched Scoot last November as an alternative to regular-fare airlines, promising that prices would be up to 40 percent cheaper. The decision to replace the clunky built-in TVs with iPads was part of that process. CNNGo reports that the old entertainment system weighed 2.5 tons, a load the aircraft can do without.
Fuel has become one of the greatest expenses for the airline industry and numerous carriers, including Singapore Airlines, have blamed rising oil prices for slumping profits. Competing airline Qantas claims to be the first to have launched iPad-based in-flight entertainment and began testing the technology in December. Scoot, has followed on its heels.
Scoot's debut flight Monday night got off to a rocky start. The aircraft was held on the tarmac at Singapore's Changi International Airport for almost two hours due to technical issues, though the airline claims a sick passenger added to the delay. The plane landed safely in Sydney an hour behind schedule.
On the maiden flight, business class passengers received iPads pre-loaded with movies, TV shows and games, while those in economy had the option of paying $17 to use the tablets.
Scoot, which currently operates four 400-seat Boeing B777-200 aircraft, says the system will be augmented later in the year by an onboard wireless system that will allow guests to access streaming content from an onboard library via their own personal devices.
Scoot currently offers flights from Singapore to Australia's Gold Coast, Sydney, Bangkok, and China's Tianjin City and plans to expand its coverage throughout the year. One day after the maiden flight, Scoot announced two new daily flights to Tokyo and Taipei, scheduled to start from the third quarter. The airline intends to increase its fleet to as many as 14 777s by the middle of the decade and expand into India and Europe.
Scoot cuts costs by flying older planes than other low-cost carriers and sells tickets as cheap as $125 one-way to Sydney, a nearly eight-hour flight. It faces stiff competition, however, from Jetstar, Qantas Airways' budget arm, and AirAsia X, the Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia's long-haul unit.
Here's to consumer choice, and healthy competition to bring the best long-haul innovations, tweeted Azran Osman-Rani, chief executive of AirAsia X. AirAsia X has trail-blazed low-cost long-haul, overcome monopolies, barriers, and traffic rights/slot restrictions. Welcome, Scoot.
Air Asia X also flies from the Malay Peninsula to Australian and Asian destinations with additional services to New Zealand, Europe, and the Middle East.
Data from Changi Airport shows that 25 percent of all air passengers who transit through the city-state use budget airlines. With 47 million passengers in 2011, that's more than 12 million potential customers and Scoot hopes it can snatch up a reasonable percentage of that demand.