Singapore sees continued role for A380s

first_imgSINGAPORE Airlines says it will be a case of “watch this space’’ as it brings in the first of five new  Airbus A380s  next year sporting premium product that will improve on its already impressive new-generation business seats.The Singaporean carrier created waves for manufacturer Airbus when it decided not to renew the 10-year lease on its first Airbus A380. The announcement came as Malaysia Airlines revealed it was in discussions with airlines in the region about offloading its fleet of six A380s.SIA may also not renew four more leases due to end, although a decision on that has yet to be made.But Singapore Airlines (SIA)  executive vice president commercial Mak Swee Wah  says the days of the double-decker superjumbo are not over yet.“The A380 probably has its niche,’’ Mak told AIrlineRatings during the recent inaugural flight of the Capital Express linking Singapore, Canberra and Wellington. “It is still the relevant plane for those key city pairs were traffic is dense and so I think it’s question of when you want to expand there’s this constant debate over capacity versus frequency.“So I think … it will be relevant of our fleet but a lot more of the services will be run by twin-engine planes.’’Mak said the decision against renewing the first lease was a result of the airline’s assessment of the need for the plane.“At this point in time, with the new ones coming in, we think that we really don’t need to expand the fleet so that’s why we are letting the lease expire,’’ he said. “When the decision time for the next few comes along then we will make the same new evaluation and if we don’t need to expand then we will do the same.’’The SIA executive would not be drawn on what was planned for the new aircraft, other than to say it would be better than its latest generation business class product.“I will say watch this space when the time comes,’’ he said.Read our review of Singapore Airlines’ new business seat.Singapore prides itself on the low average age of its fleet and it has already taken the first 67 A350s set to form the backbone of its fleet. These include seven ultra-long-range versions of the A350-900 deigned to fly up to 19 hours on non-stop flights between Singapore and New York.The A350-900ULR includes a modified fuel system and aerodynamic improvements that allow it to carry more fuel with an increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) on services to the US.Also on order are 30 Boeing 787-10s, which will be the mainstay of the airline’s medium-haul fleet and are due to start arriving in 2018. “So there are a lot of new aircraft coming in and as they come in then the older 777s.  which used to be the core of our fleet, will then be retired,’’ Mak said.Although Boeing has approached the Singaporean carrier about its next generation of Boeing 777s,  Mak said no decision had been made.The influx of new planes into the region has been one of the factors responsible for increased competition that has pushed down air fares and airline yields.Mak does not believe there will be any rationalisation of capacity in the near term and said expert commentary suggested  the world economy would  continue to languish for some time.“It’s hard to predict,’’ he said. “I think t for the moment there is still a lot of airplanes which have been ordered which will be coming into service.“That’s why we on SIA’s side – not just SIA but the rest of the group – we have to continue with our growth and expansion plan to make sure that we get our fair share of the action.’’Like everyone else in the Asia-Pacific, Mak sees China as the biggest growth area and says all four members of the SIA Group — Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Scoot and Tigerair — have expanded their presence there.He also sees a role for the new Singapore-Canberra-Wellington service as alternate gateway for Chinese tourists. There were about 90 visitors from China on the inaugural Boeing 777-200 flight and Mak said Singapore would do its share to promote traffic from the huge market to Australasia.And despite some scepticism about the route from competitors, Mak said putting the cities together made sense, with residents in both cities excited about the service and the response so far “encouraging”. The airline hopes to turn the four-times weekly route into a daily service as part of an expansion in the South-West Pacific that has seen the number of weekly flights to the region grow in recent years from 100 to 156. “We certainly hope to make it a success, especially with the support of the authorities, of the airport, of the tourism bodies,’’ Mak said“Both (cities) are equally strong and we’ll see over time as the market grows, how we can expand this further.’’He agreed one advantage of the markets was their relative affluence and pointed to the the wide range of groups in both cities with reasons to travel.“There’s government, there’s academia, there’s business people and the more affluent leisure traveller,’’ he added. “And also I think we do want to let the rest of the world know that there are some hidden gems around. It doesn’t come top of mind when we do overseas tourists but I think we need to do some work to let people know there’s more to Australia and New Zealand than just traditional gateways.’’SIA is working on the route with alliance partners Virgin Australia, which is providing lounge facilities in Canberra, and Air New Zealand, which provides them in Wellington.Air New Zealand chief strategy, networks and alliance officer Stephen Jones described the new route as a great addition to the alliance.’’Air NZ has authorisation through its alliance to co-operate with SIA to Singapore but Mr Jones said this did not extend to passengers flying across the Tasman. “But passengers flying from New Zealand via Wellington over Canberra to Singapore and beyond will be included in our alliance and in our revenue share,’’ he said.Singapore and AirNZ now co-operate on twice daily services out of Auckland, daily out of Christchurch and the four times weekly Wellington service.Steve Creedy travelled to Singapore, Canberra and Wellington courtesy of Singapore Airlines.last_img

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