SilkAir has announced today that it will launch three times weekly non-stop flights to Hiroshima, Japan from 30 October 2017. This will be SilkAir’s first destination in Japan.
The flight will depart at 1.45am on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and arrive at 9.30am the same morning. Returning flights from Hiroshima will depart at 10.25am and land at Changi Airport at 3.40pm.
The new route is significant on several fronts – it will be Hiroshima’s first non-stop link to Southeast Asia, as well as its furthest destination; and it will be the first Southeast Asian carrier to fly to Hiroshima. It is also set to become SilkAir’s furthest destination, edging out Cairns by a few minutes.
Within the Singapore Airlines Group, it is very interesting that SilkAir was chosen to service this route. While it is technically SilkAir’s first scheduled services to Japan, it is not entirely new to the market, having previously ran seasonal charters to Okinawa and Hiroshima, with seats sold by travel agents.
Previously, travellers to Hiroshima will have to transit at either the Japanese gateways of Narita and Kansai, or via North Asian hubs of Hong Kong or Taipei.
Singapore Airlines itself has previously flown to Hiroshima up to 2003, when they did a massive network reduction as a result of reduced air travel due to SARS.
Will I want to fly SilkAir to Japan? Maybe. While I’m not a big fan of flying a narrow body tube for anything longer than four hours, I will put up with that as compared to not having complimentary water for the journey by travelling with a low-cost carrier.
In terms of product, SilkAir trails Singapore Airlines significantly – no in-flight entertainment (there is streaming entertainment, but you need your own device), and the economy seat width and pitch are comparable to Jetstar’s (SilkAir measures at 30 inch pitch and 18 inch width; Jetstar’s at 29 inch pitch and 17.9 inch width). The key difference you get is free baggage allowance and meals, which hardly justifies the savings.
Ultimately it boils down to price, and SilkAir is not known to be price competitive for routes it monopolises. It might make more sense to travel via Tokyo or Kansai – the additional couple of hours may well be worth some cost savings.