Singapore Airlines (SIA) has chosen Adelaide to debut its new two-class Airbus A350-900 configured for medium-haul operations.
The first flight with the next-generation Airbus widebody is scheduled to take off on December 18 2018 and represents both an upgrade in terms of the passenger experience and an upgauge in capacity from the A330-300s SIA currently uses on its daily Adelaide-Singapore service.
SIA’s A330-300s have 30 angled lie-flat seats in business class in a 2-2-2 layout and 255 seats in economy for a total of 285.
By contrast, the new medium-haul configured A350-900s have 303 seats comprising 40 in business class in a 1-2-1 layout with direct aisle access for every passenger and 263 in economy class at nine-abreast.
The difference represents a seven per cent increase in overall seat capacity.
SIA regional vice president for South West Pacific Philip Goh said it was the right time to deploy the airline’s newest on-board products into what was a growing Adelaide market.
“We needed a lot of seats for this market, especially at the back,” Goh told Australian Aviation at the official announcement at Adelaide Airport on Thursday.
Further, the use of the larger A350-900 to Adelaide would coincide with SIA’s efforts to promote South Australia throughout the airline’s global network to grow the number of inbound visitors.
SIA is the only airline offering nonstop flights between Adelaide and Singapore.
Adelaide Airport managing director Mark Young noted SIA was one of the airport’s longest-serving airlines having been flying to the city for close to 35 years and he looked forward to celebrating the arrival of the new aircraft in December.
“We’re the fastest-growing international airport in the country and have been for a little while now. Today’s announcement by Singapore is just further recognition I think of the awareness that South Australia is gaining internationally of our wonderful product and it is a great vote of confidence of the future of the state,” Young said.
South Australia Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway said the use of the A350-900 to Adelaide would also boost the state’s trade links given the 20 tonnes of cargo capacity.
“It means more chance to get our fresh produce back up into Asia and to Singapore, seafood and some of our perishable products,” Minister Ridgway said.
“It’s a great recognition and a great vote of confidence in the way in which South Australia is connected to the world.”
SIA was expected to take delivery of its first medium-haul A350-900 shortly before the equipment change for Adelaide takes place in mid-December.
#SingaporeAirlines has announced #Adelaide as the first destination for its medium-haul configured #Airbus #A350-900. the upgauge from the A330-300 starts December 18 2018 and represents a seven per cent increase in seat capacity #PaxEx pic.twitter.com/Q4vcLyhwY3
— Australian Aviation (@ausaviation) September 6, 2018
Brisbane also set to receive medium-haul A350-900
Looking further ahead, SIA also announced Brisbane as the second Australian destination for the two-class A350-900.
Currently, SIA flies four times daily between Brisbane and Singapore. Three rotations are operated with the airline’s three-class 253-seat A350-900s that are primarily used to serve long-haul markets and have 42 business, 24 premium economy and 187 economy seats. A 777-200 is used for the fourth daily flight.
While the shift to medium-haul A350s to Brisbane would result in the loss of a premium economy offering from the Queensland capital, Goh said it would help meet market demand for more seats into and out of Brisbane.
“In looking at the route and how it has developed, premium economy is growing well and up to expectations, but the missing part has been the economy cabin,” Goh said.
“People are missing out on economy and we couldn’t carry as many passengers as we had in the past.
“Not every one of those economy passengers is going to book your premium economy so we felt that going forward we should rationalise this again.”
Also, the aircraft change to the two-class A350-900 would allow those long-haul configured A350-900s to be deployed into other markets.
SIA said the shift to the medium-haul A350-900 for Brisbane would take place in early 2019. No specific start date was given.
The airline also operates long-haul configured A350-900s to Melbourne.
Figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) showed SIA has an average inbound load factor of 82.3 per cent and average outbound load factor of 81.4 per cent in calendar 2017, compared with 81.8 per cent inbound and 83.1 per cent outbound in the prior calendar year.
The aviation powerhouse and Virgin Australia alliance partner is this country’s largest foreign carrier based on international passengers carried.
SIA considering Wellington expansion
In May, SIA restructured its operations to the Australian and New Zealand capitals by ending its Singapore-Canberra-Wellington flights and starting up four times weekly Singapore-Melbourne-Wellington and daily Singapore-Sydney-Canberra-Singapore services.
The shift of the stopover point for its Wellington flights from Canberra to Melbourne, as well as a retiming of the service to offer better connections, has led to an improved performance on that route.
Goh said the airline was now considering how to add capacity into Wellington either through more flights or with larger aircraft.
Goh noted Airbus in June brought one of its A350-900s to Wellington to test if the aircraft could potentially operate out of the airport’s runway, which at 2,081m in length is somewhat restrictive in terms of widebody operations.
“The 777-200 is one of the older aircraft in the fleet. That aircraft is going to go away from the fleet, we are going to get rid of it,” Goh explained.
“A new aircraft is required. The question is what aircraft and so that development in Wellington is good for us. It gives us more possibilities and more options.”
Wellington Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said at the time the testing aimed to show the different combinations of loads and distance an A350 could reach off the runway.
“It’s about determining the future performance for Wellington as more of these aircraft enter the fleet in the Asia-Pacific,” Sanderson said.
An amazing picture of our #A350-900 flight test aircraft arriving @WLGAirport in New Zealand yesterday evening. We’ll be doing some short runway trials there over the next few days. pic.twitter.com/zyJspkNJG4
— Airbus (@Airbus) June 4, 2018
Good response to launch of Singapore-New York out of Perth
On October 11 2018, SIA will reclaim the title of the world’s longest nonstop passenger flight when its Singapore-New York (Newark) service resumes after a five-year absence with the A350-900ULR (Ultra Long Range).
The flight has again given SIA the ability to offer a host of cities in its network – as well as the network of SIA’s regional wing SilkAir – a one-stop option to New York that was lost in 2013 when the service was withdrawn due to high fuel prices and the difficult operating economics of the four-engined A340-500 previously used on the route.
One of those cities is Perth, where travellers heading to New York can opt for convenient connections through Singapore Changi rather than two-stop itineraries via Australia’s east coast (or New Zealand) and the United States.
Goh said the ramp up in interest out of Perth for the New York service, the proposed Singapore-Los Angeles offering and the existing Singapore-San Francisco nonstop flight, had been pleasing.
“We are seeing an increased uptake from Perth,” Goh said.
“Of course we left that service five years ago so now it is about building awareness and building the market back.
“We know there is a market and a strong market actually.”