4 December 2022
The route has consistently been among the busiest in the world – here’s why.
The Singapore-Kuala Lumpur air corridor links two of the busiest hubs in Southeast Asia. In 2022 alone, there were over 2.4 million seats available on this route – and that’s after taking into account the effects of travel restrictions.
The three most common reasons
In 2019, before the pandemic, the route between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur was the second-busiest international route in the world, with a capacity of over 5.5 million seats, served by 82 daily flights.
However, in the last 12 months, flight availability was reduced to an average of 33 per day, at just 2.4 million seats – half of what was available pre-COVID. Nonetheless, the route still made it on OAG’s Top 10 Busiest International Routes in 2022, coming in at number five. So, what makes the route between these neighboring countries so busy?
- Economic activity: Singapore and Malaysia have a long history of economic and cultural ties, dating back to the 60s, when both nations were part of the Federation of Malaysia. Today, economic migration continues to take place, often with Malaysians commuting to Singapore for higher-paying work. Business travel among high-level executives is also common on this route.
- Tourism: Travel between the two countries is not just all work and no play. In fact, holidaymakers made up 39% of Malaysians who travel to Singapore – the single largest travel purpose in 2022. Residents from the island-nation frequent Malaysia to enjoy affordable food and to shop at some of the region’s largest shopping centers, while Malaysians travel down south to visit attractions such as Universal Studios Singapore, and Jewel Changi Airport (yes, the airport is regarded as an attraction in itself!).
- Friends and family: The second most common reason for travel between Singapore and Malaysia this year was to visit friends and relatives. As mentioned, Singapore used to be part of Malaysia, which means it’s not uncommon for families to be spread out between the countries.
Airlines and aircraft on the route
Some of the main airlines competing on this route include flag carriers Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines, as well as low-cost airlines AirAsia, Scoot, Jetstar, and Malindo Air.
On OAG’s list of the busiest routes in the world, Singapore-Kuala Lumpur is the shortest, with a flight distance of just 184 miles (296 km)! It is also the only intra-Asia route to have made it on the list. Interestingly, despite the short route, some airlines utilize widebodies for the hour-long flight. For example, Singapore Airlines operates the A350 on this route. And in pre-pandemic times, Ethiopian Airlines used a Boeing 787.
While air travel is a popular mode of transport between Singapore and Malaysia, the two countries are, in fact, also connected via road and rail. The drive from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore takes about five hours, with buses frequently shuttling between the cities. From the southernmost tip of Malaysia, there are two bridges (both under 1.2 miles) linking to Singapore over water.
Still, flights are a much quicker option and are relatively affordable – which is why the air corridor continues to be among the busiest in the world.
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