Singapore Airlines Introducing New First Class On 777-9, And Adding Third Ultra Longhaul Route

Filed Under: Singapore

Singapore Airlines is presently taking delivery of their first Boeing 787-10, for which they’re the launch customer. While this plane can operate longhaul routes, Singapore Airlines plans on using the 787-10 for regional flights, primarily around Asia. While taking delivery of the new plane, Singapore Airlines’ CEO, Goh Choon Phong, revealed a couple of interesting things about the carrier’s future. The Straits Times has all the details.

Singapore Airlines will introduce third ultra longhaul flight with A350-900ULR

Not only is Singapore Airlines the launch customer for the 787-10, but they’re also the launch customer for the A350-900ULR (the “ULR” stands for “ultra long range”). The airline has seven of these planes on order, and they should take delivery of their first one later this year. While Singapore Airlines already has A350-900s (they have 21 in their fleet, with a further 39 on order), the A350-900ULR is even longer range.

Singapore Airlines plans to use the A350-900ULR to launch nonstop flights to New York and Los Angeles. They operated these flights until 2013, but were forced to end them when they got rid of their A340-500s.

Singapore’s A350-900ULRs will feature just 162 seats, including 68 business class seats and 94 premium economy seats. This is both to keep the weight of the plane down, and also because the only way to make money on these ultra longhaul flights is with premium passengers.

In the meantime Singapore Airlines has launched nonstop flights to San Francisco with the A350-900 (the non-ULR version), and that’s just at the outer range of the plane.

So once Singapore Airlines has the A350-900ULR they’ll have nonstop flights to Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.

With seven of these planes on order, though, it looks like Singapore Airlines is planning a third destination for the A350-900ULR. Per The Straits Times:

When asked about plans for the new Airbus 350-900ULR – which SIA will be the first airline to operate – Mr Goh said there is potentially one more destination that the carrier has “firm plans” for. However, he declined to reveal what the destination could be.

My original assumption was that they’d use the A350-900ULRs for San Francisco, but when they were pressured into starting the route early for competitive reasons, I guess that’s off the table.

Where could Singapore Airlines fly the A350-900ULR? Everywhere in Asia, Australia, Africa, and Europe, is within range of their other planes. So it has to be somewhere in South America, or possibly even North America. It also has to be somewhere that has a lot of business traffic, since the plane has so few seats.

The first cities that come to mind are Chicago and Toronto. Both are big markets as such, and are also Star Alliance hubs. Maybe we could also see Houston or Sao Paulo, though those flights are approaching 10,000 miles one-way, and I’m not sure exactly what the range of Singapore’s A350-900ULR will be, since it comes down to the plane’s weight.

Singapore Airlines will introduce a new first class on the 777-9

Singapore Airlines has 20 Boeing 777-9 aircraft on order, which they’ll be using for longhaul flights as well. They’ll start taking delivery of those planes in 2021, so we’re still a few years off from those planes being in service.

While there are limited details as of now, Singapore Airlines has revealed that they’ll be introducing a new first class seat on the 777-9, which they believe will set the industry standard:

The new first-class offering is currently in the conceptualisation stage. Said the airline’s chief executive Goh Choon Phong: “We believe when we launch it, we will set an industry standard.”

Mr Goh said: “(SIA will) be going out to our consumers and customers to get better ideas about what it is they really want in the next quantum leap of service and product.”

It sounds like they don’t even really know what they’re going to offer yet, but rather that the design is still in the very early stages.

Singapore Airlines is unique in that they really have two types of first class concepts. Their 777s have “first class,” while their A380s have “Suites,” which is the forward most cabin on that plane. Singapore Airlines recently introduced their new Suites on the A380. Their 777 first class, on the other hand, is less impressive.

It’s interesting that Singapore Airlines says that the new first class will set the industry standard. I assume it won’t actually be better than the new Suites (due to space constraints), and that they’re considering that to be a different product for these purposes. However, I’m highly skeptical of whether Singapore Airlines will be able to set a new industry standard.

Emirates recently introduced their new first class on the 777, which I’d argue has set the new industry standard, and is better than Singapore’s new A380 Suites.

Bottom line

These are exciting times for Singapore Airlines. They operate a fleet of 111 widebody aircraft, with a further 117 planes on order. They’re the launch customer for the 787-10, A350-900ULR, and will also be getting the 777-9 within a few years. Singapore Airlines knows how to keep a young fleet, and I can’t wait to fly all the planes that are on the way.

What other ultra longhaul route do you think Singapore Airlines will launch? Do you think Singapore Airlines’ new first class will actually set the industry standard?

  1. Chicago was my first thought when I saw ‘third ultra long-haul destination’.

    Is your seatcount of the A350-900ULR correct as J and Y? Don’t you mean J and Y+?

  2. I would guess Chicago or Houston too. Both are Star Alliance hubs with large business centers and cover areas of the U.S. not currently served by their planned SFO, LAX and JFK routes. Toronto also meets that criteria, but I just can’t see Canada winning the route…

  3. @ Craig — No date has been announced, though depending on whether they first launch the NYC or LAX route, I’d expect late this year or early next year.

  4. Why can United make LAX work with a standard 787-9 but SQ need a special plane with a special seating configuration?

  5. If SQ can create a new First Class on their 777s similar to EK’s that can accommodate couples travelling in addition to solo travellers as well, then I’d say theirs would be industry leading. As much as I love EK’s new F on their 777s, it’s disappointing that couples can’t enjoy the experience together at the same time (though their seats are great for solo travellers for sure.)
    As for the ULR, I really hope SQ puts a bar on there for both J and premium economy pax as it certainly helps to move around a plane when you’re in it for over 16 hours!

  6. I’d guess Chicago rather than Toronto. Singapore has always had a very strained relationship with Air Canada, which is why Singapore doesn’t fly (and feed connecting traffic) to Vancouver. I don’t see that changing just because Singapore can now fly non-stop to Toronto. Chicago would also have more premium cabin demand. Most corporate travel in Toronto would be tied in tightly to Air Canada.

  7. I hope they have a new more comfortable biz seat on the ultra long haul planes cuz even the new one they just introduced sucks in lie flat imho.

  8. Speaking of Singapore… is the rest of your review coming soon?? Looking forward to it. Thanks Ben!

  9. @lucky I know, it just seems a bit radical in comparison to what United are doing. But I guess they’ve crunched the numbers and come to the conclusion that this is the best option.

  10. When SQ placed the A350-9U order, they said they planned to open non-stop SIN-GRU (dropping the out of the way stop in Barcelona). While the Brazilian economy isn’t what it was at that time, the difficulties in the Brazilian Oil & Gas industry have created a steady stream of lawyers, bankers, and restructuring/financial advisers (in addition to the oil and gas people) flying between SIN and GRU/GIG. This is a long route, but being able to ride the equatorial tradewinds on both legs should make it very doable. Connection possibilities to the rest of Brazil/South America with Avianca Brasil are growing quickly.

    I wouldn’t be surprised though if they use the planes to make the JFK flight double daily . . . there is a massive unmet demand that a single flight won’t begin to satisfy. The 5 nonstops a day between Hong Kong and New York give an idea of the possibilities for the Singapore nonstop.

  11. A 2nd NYC flight could be a possibility but I think they would start with one and try an other destination first. Toronto could work but it would piss off AC since the Asia routes are some of the higher margin flights.

  12. Cant SQ operate SIN-LAX with the A359? It’s got a longer range than the 789, which United is using

  13. So what will happen to their 5th Freedom routes if these routes are implemented? The various flights to SFO/LAX via HKG/NRT/ICN ? Or their JFK-FRA route? Wonder if they will keep those or retire them.

  14. The final destination won’t be an ultra longhaul one.

    If you have 7 frames and flying daily to SFO, EWR/JFK, LAX you are using up already 2 frames.

    There’s every reason to believe the last flight will be to GVA: it’s the largest unserved market from SIN, has extremely high yields and a very strong demand for business class. The A359ULR’s configuration with that few seats is almost tailored to GVA market specs.

  15. Maybe the reason why SQ didn’t operate direct flight from SIN to LAX is because there’s not much demand for a direct flight, and it’ll be more profitable if they use 5th freedom flights either from ICN nor NRT. Just an assumption

  16. @ Julia — I don’t think anything will change, given how low capacity these flights. I guess we’ll find out eventually. Maybe they’ll cut one of the daily LAX flights, though I doubt they’ll cut their JFK flight.

  17. @Zzk – they don’t do LAX nonstop at the moment because they don’t have a plane that can do it at present. SFO barely works with an A350-900. LAX is a few hundred miles longer.

    @Roland Cule – GVA? Really? They would have launched GVA by now if the demand was there. Perfectly suited market for an A350 / 777-300ER. No way on earth they would waste two A350-900ULR frames on this route.

    My guess is they keep SFO on the A350-900. LAX gets the ULR variant (2x frames), and they will go back to EWR (2x frames) due to UA feed, and then they’ll reopen ORD (2x frames).

    That’s 6 ULR frames in use, leaving a spare one to be rotated around. When they had the A340-500’s they only had 5 frames when they only needed 4; one was always meant to be a spare.

    Also want to point out, the non-stop SQ flight to SFO is heavily dependent on feed from India and the subcontinent. According to the cabin crew I’ve spoken to, this flight wouldn’t survive otherwise if they didn’t have that. And when I’ve flown it, very few passengers originated in Singapore. An ultra premium heavy ULR variant probably wouldn’t work on this route.

  18. @Lucky / @Julia – correct me if I’m wrong here, but back in the day when they had SIN-LAX twice daily (one via NRT and the other via TPE), they cut the TPE flight when the non-stop came about.

    JFK isn’t going anywhere; they operated the non-stop to EWR and JFK via FRA remained then, with an A380 too.

    The only one I see getting shifted is the ICN-LAX flight. They don’t want to give up their fifth freedom route at ICN and I think what could happen here is that flight becomes SIN-ICN-SEA or SIN-ICN-IAD.

    I don’t see any way that LAX maintains 3 daily SQ flights when the non-stop gets reintroduced.

  19. Off topic a bit but it kind of sucks that I have to be flying 777 for the next 30 years. Thinking back that 737 was flying for over 50 years and will be for at least another 20 years too maybe.

    Boeing should not whine about CS. They had tons of military subsidy and corner the market. Shame on Boeing, u suck.
    P.S. We airlines and passengers both still need a 757 replacement not a 737 to patch things up.

  20. I think you are right, Chicago or Toronto. Have a hunch its Toronto. Considering the width of the 777, I think they actually can fit in the new suites onto the aircraft. Probably accommodating 4 passengers. If you ask me, Cathay has the bet and widest 1st class bed in first, all they need is build up the walls a bit higher.

  21. How about IAD-SIN? Cathay just launched IAD-HKG despite IAD being a star alliance hub, so SQ in *A should be able to make a route to Asia work.

  22. I like Singapore Airlines. My name must remain secret. It is these letters on an iPad keyboard when you press down. 547:0.

  23. I just looked up LAX-SIN for next year and it shows its 21 HOUR FLIGHT!!!!!!!!!

    Even being direct, in business, I would never. I need to poop in 21 hours. Im not gonna poop on the plane.

  24. Why don’t they just use the 787-10 for these flights? I assume they have the same if not longer range than the 787-9

  25. @ Andy — The 787-10 actually has significantly shorter range than the 787-9 (by about 1,000 miles).

  26. Singapore Airlines used to serve Vancouver, Las Vegas and Chicago, but all were dropped due to low demand. And for those who have been around long enough, Singapore Airlines used to serve Honolulu too. Things have changed and any one of the above may be reinstated for the non-stop route. But of course, as some of you have mentioned, a new destination never before served by Singapore Airlines may be introduced, such as Toronto or Dulles.

  27. Chicago is more likely currently, since they’re unlikely to serve another airplane to JFK (currently served by A380) and EWR is just an overlap for the NYC area even though it’s a United hub.

  28. @Aaron Chan, Singapore did serve Toronto before in the early 90s. In fact it was their first transatlantic route and the routing was SIN-VIE-AMS-YYZ. The route was short lived though and it was dropped when JFK was added to Singapore’s network in 1992, iirc.

  29. Some may remember that Thai also used to operate ULR flights between US and Bangkok (I flex LAX-BKK once, in economy, in a row without a window). I doubt we will see those coming back, though…

  30. @Chris I think you will see the Thai BKK-JFK come back within the next several years. This flight was successful for TG from many standpoints, had excellent load factors and one of the highest yields of any flight in TG history, and did a lot to increase business ties with the world financial capital (relevant for a state/military controlled corporation), but became terribly unprofitable only due to the spike in fuel coupled with the exceptionally poor economics of the 4 engine A340-500 (which were uneconomic to fly anywhere and spent almost their entire lives in storage with negative resale value) and the financial crisis.

    The economics of aircraft today, coupled with the low price of fuel, changes everything for ULH flying, and I have little doubt that BKK-JFK (or EWR) will be back at some point in the near future. If TG doesn’t, they know that a UA EWR-BKK might pop up as stealthily as they opened SFO-SIN and LAX-SIN (and if UA can make those work with their highly compensated employees and high cost structure, TG certainly could manage).

  31. YVR or SEA would be my guess. SEA is probably more likely of the two, given the AS partnership and general animosity between SQ and AC.

  32. @Mak: Thai has to satisfy the ICAO red flag, the FAA’s issues, and Thailand’s own regulatory authorities. Plus the West Coast-Thailand business model is very price sensitive. Further, domestic flights to beach destinations within Thailand need better integration at BKK since most flights leave from DMK.

  33. @Marissa Actually, the ICAO Red Flag has been recently removed, and the US FAA has completed its re-audit last month . . . likely clearing the way for TG to return to US flights again in the near future. I don’t think they will restart US West Coast nonstop. The JFK flight though connected BKK to an otherwise unconnected finance/banking/legal capital, and will have no problem once again attracting a very premium heavy mix.

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