A richly coloured graphic for the growing Changi connection
A richly coloured graphic for the growing Changi connection

Today’s low key and largely re-announced extended codeshare deal between Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa is really all about Changi Airport taking on Dubai as a much nicer and more useful hub for airline connections.

Oh, and a shot at the Qantas and Emirates, and Virgin Australia and Etihad alliances, and locally friendless Qatar Airways as well, of course.

The press release from Singapore Airlines says “Singapore Airlines (SIA) and the Lufthansa Group are expanding their codeshare agreement to provide customers more benefits through enhanced connections and new codeshare destinations.”

Um, OK, we knew that last November in the first such announcement, although some more cities are specified, including Geneva and Zurich via Lufthansa subsidiary Swiss for those who might be looking to arrange their taxation optimisations somewhere other than Panama City or the British Virgin Islands in the immediate future.

But let’s be clear about what is really going on, and why it may well be a very good thing for airline competition into as well as out of Australia, since anything that makes this country easier for cashed up hordes of newly enriched visitors to come here where neither the air nor water will kill them is a good thing.

It’s all about the revenge of lush green lovely Changi on those despicable copycats in the Middle East who have imitated the genius of Lee Kuan Yew the father of modern Singapore, in making a cross roads airport one of the foundations of its sensationally successful economy. (The others being its port facilities, refineries and industrial estates).

The indignity of having Dubai turn Emirates and its global hub into a super Changi has long irritated Singapore Inc, not to mention the prodigious efforts of Abu Dhabi and Etihad and Qatar and its Doha airport and national carrier to imitate and even out bling the largest city in the UAE.

Singapore Airlines plus low cost brand Scoot plus Changi are showing a strong hand in seeking to funnel as much Australia-China+India traffic through their airliners and terminals as possible, seizing on what they see as weakness in the Qantas network to Asia as well as a region that Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi can’t address because they are too far to one side of those beaten tracks.

And with the power of Lufthansa Group’s considerable full fare and low cost brand reach in Europe, Singapore Airlines can leverage those codeshare services into covering the Continent in what it argues is a truly nicer and just as effective set of connections as any that might be available through the hub ports of the Middle East Three.

Political instability and risks are of course never mentioned by Singapore Airlines or its other half comprising the Asian Two, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific.  But they don’t have to. They just have to offer something that looks highly attractive as an alternative.  Although Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific are determined rivals, both are making the same claims for Australians who might otherwise be flying to Europe via the Middle East.  Which is that they can do it too.

With brand new A380s (with new cabin designs) and A350s coming, Singapore Airlines is clearly re-awakening in the Australian market, and it will as always be interesting to see what Emirates and Etihad and their respective alliance partners Qantas and Virgin Australia do about it.

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