Singapore Airlines says it will replace the Boeing 777-200 with the Airbus A350-900 on the Singapore-Melbourne-Wellington route from November 1 2019.
The move to bring the A350-900 on the route, announced on Tuesday, comes a little over a year after Airbus conducted some tests on the performance of the aircraft at Wellington Airport.
In June 2018, Airbus brought one of its A350-900 test aircraft to Wellington as part of an evaluation whether the type could potentially operate out of the airport’s runway, which at 2,081m in length is somewhat restrictive in terms of widebody operations.
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
VIDEO: A look at the Airbus A350-900 test aircraft landing at Wellington Airport from the AdAndPlanes YouTube channel.
Wellington Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said Singapore Airlines’ decision to deploy the A350-900 to the New Zealand capital was a vote of confidence in the region.
“Singapore Airlines has been operating out of Wellington for three years and over that period there has been a 35 per cent increase in visitors from Asia,” Sanderson said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This illustrates how popular the service is and we are thrilled with the positive response from travellers.”
Currently, Singapore Airlines flies between Singapore and Wellington, via Melbourne, four times a week with 777-200s configured with 38 business class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration and 228 economy class seats at nine abreast.
The equipment change represents a product upgrade for passengers, given the A350-900s to be used on the route has 42 business class seats with direct aisle access, 24 premium economy seats in a 2-4-2 layout and 187 economy seats in a 3-3-3 configuration.
While the A350-900 has 13 fewer seats than the 777-200 (253 versus 266), Singapore Airlines had previously announced it was would increase the schedule to five times weekly from January 1 2020, meaning there would be an overall increase in capacity on the route.
The equipment change meant Singapore Airlines would be the only airline offering premium economy out of Wellington.
Singapore Airlines began flying to Wellington in 2016 as part of a Singapore-Canberra-Wellington rotation. It switched the mid-point stop to Melbourne in 2018.
“We have proudly served the Wellington market since we launched operations here in 2016 and today’s announcement reinforces our commitment to the city and our operations to the capital,” Singapore Airlines general manager for New Zealand Kenny Teo said in a statement.
“It is exciting to become the first airline to operate scheduled commercial services using the A350-900.”
The start of A350-900 flights on the Singapore-Melbourne-Wellington route also ensured Singapore Airlines would be able to offer lie-flat seats in business class to all six destinations in its Australian network – Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney – served with a mixture of Boeing 787-10s and 777-300ERs, as well as Airbus A350-900s and A380s.
“We are very excited to be able to offer our customers a level of product consistency and service across all Singapore Airlines operated services to and from Australia,” Singapore Airlines regional vice president for Southwest Pacific Philip Goh said in a statement.
“From 1 November every one of our 141 weekly flights from our six destinations across Australia will provide customers the opportunity to enjoy a lie-flat Business Class seat, while those travelling from Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra will also have the choice of Premium Economy on every flight.
“Over the past 18 months we have continued to invest in the Australian market, deploying new aircraft to all of our stations across the country.”
Magnificent news. Congratulations to All. I have enjoyed the 777 experience into WLG on several occasions but this upgrade is the icing on the cake!
Having also flown the A350 before, it is really quiet and spacious, especially at 253 seat SQ configuration.
About time. It would be interesting to see what Qantas and Air NZ will do considering that Air NZ has long opposed to operates wide body aircraft in and out of Wellington to Sydney and Melbourne, when they withdraw the B777-200 and replaced it with a B737-300 in 1999/2000.
I doubt it’ll be a B737-300 Kris!
Build the service quickly so one day soon maybe go direct to Singapore as it would provide a more direct and quicker service.
The Runway is too short for direct flights. It needs to be over 3,000m long due to elevation and weight etc.
With existing SIA flights ex-CHC and AKL, where on earth would passengers be derived, to fill non-stops to Singapore?
It seems odd reading about Airbus having to trial their A350-900 into Wellington when decades ago Qantas was regularly flying the B747-38SP into that city’s airport. (A quick internet check shows QF B747SP flights from SYD-WLG and BNE-WLG commenced in early 1981 and operated until 1985 when B767-238ERs joined the QF fleet.)
The MEL-WLG and WLG-MEL flights currently operated by Singapore Airlines with B777-212ER aircraft require much less of a fuel payload compared with the long range sectors the type can fly (similarly when the A350-900 replaces the Boeing later in the year) so would special test flights into WLG with the A350-900 really have been so necessary?
I could however understand the need for A350 flight trials if, for example, airlines were contemplating long haul flights from WLG as @Mark White has suggested in the comment above, however I’ve not read of any plans to that effect…yet.
Interestingly in my “WLG airport research”, I read that a United B747-100 diverted into WLG due to fog in AKL and with insufficient reserves to get to CHC. Also Air New Zealand operated empty B747-200s to WLG for at least two special event occasions at the airport….The things one learns from reading one article!
Nothing to do with elevation Corey. WLG is basically sea level, so no issues re air pressure. Yes the runway is too short for direct Singapore flights. Take-off distance available would need to be about 2650m not 3000m.
To put the record straight, 747, A380, Concorde in her day could all land in WLG in terms of both length and runway strength but with near max energy braking if fully payloaded in still air conditions. Of course this is not desirable as it is uneconomic but it can be done in an emergency as per the United 747-200 some years back.
The runway should be extended 400+m from both a safety and noise perspective, as it is close to residential zoning. Longer runways equal greater safety margins, economics and less noise as thrust is reduced commensurate with longer runway length. Most current take-offs in WLG are executed with high thrust settings equaling more noise, less economic and greater emissions.
So in conclusion, advocacy for a longer runway is in the best public interest for those reasons.