One of Asia’s biggest carriers, Singapore Airlines (SIA), has announced that it is planning to reduce capacity by 11 percent between April and March 2010. The airline has also announced its decision to suspend flights to Vancouver, Canada.

SIA said that it will cut capacity this by decommissioning 17 aircraft. According to published reports, only four aircraft were due to be phased out, one to be converted to a freighter while the other three would be returned to lessors.

Singapore Airlines CEO Chew Choon Seng said: “The drop in air transportation has been sharp and swift. Given the falls of over 20 per cent that we have seen recently in air cargo shipments, and the tradition of demand for air travel following closely behind trends on the cargo side of the business, we have to face the reality that 2009 is going to be a very difficult year.”

Seng added, “We have already taken action such as expanding and stepping up training and re-training programs, and we will contemplate retrenchment only as a last resort, but we do not have the luxury of time and we need to agree and act on some measures quickly so that we can push back the point of retrenchment as far as possible and improve our chances of avoiding it altogether.”

SIA also said is it “indefinitely” suspending its three-times-weekly service between Singapore and Vancouver, via Seoul. The airline is planning to operate its last flight from Singapore to Vancouver on April 25, 2009.

The Asian carrier has put the blame on performance on the route having been badly affected by the global economic downturn and the reduction as part of its continuing commitment to ensure capacity is best matched with demand in the current economic conditions as the reasons for its decision. SIA said the “decision to suspend service is most regrettable” as Singapore Airlines has served Canada for over 20 years.

The airline noted that arrangements are being made to inform those customers affected by the change, and to offer them alternative travel solutions. A refund, without penalty or fee, for unused travel will be given to customers currently holding tickets issued prior to Feb. 14, 2009 for Singapore Airlines flights after April 25, 2009 between Singapore and Vancouver, or Seoul and Vancouver.

The airline reported last week reported that its profit for the October to December period was down 43 percent compared to 2007.