Singapore Airlines aircraft changes in the Adelaide and Brisbane markets: the good and the bad

Singapore Airlines (SIA) is significantly increasing business class capacity and improving its premium product in the South Australia market as Adelaide becomes the first destination for SIA’s new fleet of medium haul configured A350-900s. Brisbane will be the second destination, resulting in capacity increases but at the expense of premium economy.


Summary:

  • Singapore Airlines has confirmed Adelaide and Brisbane will be the first two destinations for its new fleet of medium haul configured A350-900s;
  • For Adelaide the new aircraft type will replace A330-300s, resulting in a significant increase in business class capacity and a significant improvement in the premium product, but a marginal increase in economy capacity;
  • For Brisbane the new aircraft type will mainly replace long haul A350-900s, resulting in a significant increase in economy capacity but at the expense of premium economy capacity;
  • Singapore Airlines may eventually serve Adelaide with 737 MAX 8s, enabling it to increase frequencies and improve connectivity.

In early Aug-2018, the Blue Swan reported that Singapore-Adelaide was expected to be the first route for SIA’s medium haul configured A350 sub-fleet followed by Singapore-Brisbane. SIA confirmed exactly this on 6-Sep-2018.

See related report: Australia experiences surge in A350 flights, more than quadrupling in one year

SIA currently serves Adelaide with one daily A330-300 flight (three extra frequencies are operated for three weeks each January). SIA is phasing out its A330 fleet as it takes 787-10s and medium haul configured A350-900s. SIA began taking 787-10s in Mar-2018 – with Singapore-Perth being one of the first routes for the new type. Deliveries of the medium haul configured A350-900s will begin in Dec-2018.

For Adelaide, SIA had the option of replacing the A330-300 with the 787-10 or A350-900s. Both are larger than the A330-300 but the 787-10 is larger than the A350-900 – and likely too large for the South Australia market. SIA, Adelaide Airport and the South Australia government touted the extra capacity generated by the A350 at a 6-Sep-2018 in Adelaide but actually SIA picked the aircraft that will have less of a capacity impact.

The medium haul configured A350-900 provides slightly more business class capacity than the 787-10 (40 seats compared to 36 seats). As the A330-300 has only 30 business class seats, SIA’s business class capacity in the Adelaide market will increase by a significant 33%. Meanwhile, economy capacity will only increase by a very modest 3% (from 255 to 263 seats per flight).

SIA ideally would serve Adelaide with more frequencies using smaller aircraft. Two daily frequencies would improve connectivity, particularly to Europe.

SIA’s only regular Adelaide flight lands in Singapore at 310pm – at least eight hours prior to any of its departures to Europe. From Singapore, the only Adelaide flight departs at 1110pm, resulting in a five-hour layover from London, a seven-hour layover from Frankfurt and layovers of more than 15 hours for SIA’s other 13 European destinations.

SIA already offers a full range of connections from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney as each of these markets are served with at least four daily flights. Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney are all currently served with long haul configured aircraft while Perth is mostly served with regional or medium haul configured aircraft. However, SIA plans to transition Brisbane back to medium haul configured aircraft in 2019 using the 303-seat A350-900.

SIA introduced 253-seat long haul configured A350-900s (42 lie flat business, 24 premium economy and 187 economy) on three of its four daily Brisbane flights in late 2017 and early 2018. The fourth Brisbane flight is operated with 271-seat long haul configured 777-200ERs (26 lie flat business and 245 economy).

See related report: Brisbane travellers to benefit from improved premium products thanks to Singapore Airlines

As it introduces 303-seat medium haul configured A350-900s in Brisbane, SIA will therefore significantly increase regular economy capacity (by 31% assuming all four flights are operated with the new configuration) but stop offering premium economy. Business class capacity will remain relatively flat while total capacity will increase by 18%.

SIA apparently has decided premium economy is not essential for the Brisbane market and it is better offering more economy capacity. For Adelaide SIA also has decided that it is not worth offering premium economy.

The Adelaide decision is rather obvious given that Adelaide does not connect well with Europe, which accounts for most premium economy traffic to/from Australia. SIA may get away without premium economy in Brisbane given that premium economy is generally not available in the Queensland market (Qantas for example does not offer premium economy on its Brisbane-Singapore flights). However, using two class rather than three class A350-900s will be disappointing to some Brisbane based passengers and corporates.