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Monday, July 1, 2013

Delta Air Eyes Corporate Business Sector

American carrier Delta Air Lines is ready to move in when Singapore Airlines pulls the plug on its non-stop flights to the United States later this year.

"Our main focus is to win and secure the corporate business class market," said Delta's managing director for Asia Pacific, Mr Jeffrey S. Bernier.

Speaking to The Straits Times at the airline's Tokyo hub recently, he added: "Corporate business travellers want non-stops so historically, SIA has had the lion's share of the business in two of the largest US markets - Los Angeles and New York."

This will change when SIA suspends its non-stop all-business class services to Los Angeles in October and New York in November, which had been operating since 2004.

The decision to pull out was made last year on the back of high fuel prices and softening demand in the premium market.

SIA will then serve the two cities like other airlines do out of Asia - with a stop in between. It will fly to Los Angeles daily via Tokyo and to New York, via Frankfurt, Germany.

There are no immediate plans to add more flights but SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides noted that capacity has been boosted recently with the Airbus 380 superjumbos replacing the smaller Boeing 777 aircraft on both routes.

The impending development will provide a new opportunity for rivals such as Delta to grow their market share, Mr Bernier said.

"Our network will become more competitive and with our competitive product, the first goal is to win market share."

Delta operates daily out of Changi Airport Terminal 1 to Tokyo, and from there connects passengers to eight US destinations, including Los Angeles and New York. United Airlines is the other American carrier that flies out of Singapore.

The Singapore-US market is highly competitive with many major carriers such as Cathay Pacific and Emirates offering services via their respective hubs. Delta is focused on building its name and brand in Asia, said Mr Bernier. In Singapore, it has for the first time joined hands with Changi Airport Group.

Airport spokesman Robin Goh confirmed the collaboration, which will include joint promotions and advertising campaigns to increase awareness and demand for Delta's services. Details are being finalised, he said.

Mr Bernier said: "We have a good story to tell in Asia. It's a somewhat yet unknown tale but we will continue to work hard on improving the overall product and service, communicating the story and delivering excellence to our customers."

The airline is investing US$3 billion (S$3.9 billion) worldwide in products and services, airport facilities and technology.

For Delta's long-haul flights, business class travellers enjoy full lie-flat beds, on-demand video with about 300 movies and other entertainment options, as well as personal USB ports.

The airline has also launched a Fly Delta app for Android users to plan and manage flights. So far, it has attracted more than 5.5 million downloads.

Mr Bernier said: "We have clearly differentiated ourselves from other US carriers. We want to compete head to head with the Asian carriers.

"We're investing not only in the product but also staff training so we can take care of our customers."

The airline has improved significantly in recent years, said Mr Steven Yeow, Singapore-based regional procurement manager at Ecolab Nalco Pacific, which has its headquarters in the US.

The company's staff used to fly on various airlines to the US, including SIA and United, but switched to Delta more than a year ago.

Said the 45-year-old: "Now we fly only Delta - about 120 to 150 flights a year. The airline has a good network to and within the US, and offers good value for money.

"I won't say it comes out tops in all categories but in totality, for business travel, Delta is now heads and shoulders above many other airlines.

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Live to love and love to live. The motto that I held on my entire life. Just a regular guy who loves what I am passionate in life. A song writer and producer. Living life on the move. From Malaysia to The States, New Zealand to Singapore. With the companion of great people in life. In and out from the music industry. Taking everything one step at a time. 
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