Brisbane’s premium economy blow for corporates flying to and from Asia

Premium economy options for corporates based in Brisbane have dwindled as Singapore Airlines (SIA) has transitioned two of its four daily flights on Singapore–Brisbane-Singapore from three-class Airbus A350s to two-class versions of the same type. SIA is now left with only one premium economy flight to Brisbane and the total Brisbane-Asia market will have only 23 weekly premium economy flights this winter.


Highlights:

  • Singapore Airlines has cut premium economy capacity in the Brisbane market by 67% as it switched in the last few months two of its four Brisbane flights from three class to two class A350s;
  • This winter there will only be 23 weekly flights from Brisbane to Asia with a premium economy option;
  • Singapore Airlines has significantly increased economy class capacity in Brisbane but corporate customers may be disappointed with drop in premium economy seats.

SIA has replaced 253-seat A350-900s (42 long-haul lie flat business class, 24 premium economy and 187 economy) with 303-seat A350-900s (40 regional lie flat business and 263 economy) on two of its daily Brisbane flights. The new 303-seat configuration features SIA’s new regional lie flat business class seat, which was initially introduced in 2018 on the Boeing 787-10.

One of SIA’s Brisbane flights is still operated with 253-seat three-class A350-900s. The fourth flight is currently operated with 272-seat two-class 777-200ERs (26 retrofitted long-haul business class and 245 economy). However, SIA is planning to phase out its 777-200ER fleet later this year and deploy another 303-seat two class A350-900 on Brisbane, resulting in what will be a further increase in economy capacity.

Once the third flight switches over to the regional A350-900, SIA will have increased economy seat capacity to Brisbane by 21% while reducing premium economy capacity by 67%. Business class capacity will be up 7%.

Brisbane is served by 12 Asian airlines – Air China, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan Airlines, EVA Air, Malaysia Airlines, Malindo Air, Philippine Airlines (PAL), SIA and Thai Airways. However only Cathay Pacific, China Airlines and SIA offer a premium economy seat in the market (excludes extra legroom economy products). Royal Brunei and Thai AirAsia X, both of which are launching services to Brisbane in Jun-2019, will not be offering a premium economy seat.

SIA is by far the largest Asian airline in the Brisbane market, operating four daily flights. Cathay Pacific is the second largest but only serves Brisbane with seven weekly flights in the southern winter season, increasing to 10 to 12 frequencies (depending on the week) in the summer.

Brisbane will have only 23 weekly premium economy flights to Asia this winter compared to 35 last winter. In addition to the seven from SIA and seven from Cathay, Qantas is offering two weekly flights to Hong Kong with premium economy and China Airlines will offer seven frequencies to Taipei (with the exception of May, when it temporarily cuts back to four to six frequencies depending on the week).

Most of Qantas’ Brisbane-Hong Kong flights and all of its Brisbane to Tokyo and Singapore flights are operated with A330s that do not have a premium economy cabin. Qantas low-cost subsidiary Jetstar also links Brisbane with Bali using 787s but these also don’t have a premium economy (although its business class product is somewhat similar to premium economy). Virgin Australia and Malindo compete on the Brisbane-Bali route using single-aisle 737s.

Premium economy is generally a popular option for Australian corporate customers travelling to Asia, Europe and North America. Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways are major competitors in the Brisbane-Europe market (along with several Asian airlines) but neither have a premium economy product. Qantas only offers Brisbane-London passengers a premium economy option on the Singapore-London leg (or Perth-London).

With SIA’s new Brisbane schedule, a premium economy option is still available to/from London. However, for other European destinations such an option is only available from Europe: from Brisbane passengers have to settle for a regular economy seat (or do a stopover in Singapore).

The one remaining Brisbane-Singapore flight with premium economy departs around midnight and arrives in Singapore early the next morning. The return flight departs in the morning and arrives in Brisbane in the evening. While SIA currently has this flight in its schedule operating for the next year with three-class A350-900s it could easily be swapped for two class A350-900s, giving SIA the same aircraft type and configuration across all four Brisbane flights.