Singapore Airlines confirms new US schedule, increasing its premium offering

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has finalised its new schedule for the US market, ending months of speculation over how it would deploy its fleet of seven A350-900ULRs.


Highlights

  • SIA has announced the launch of 10 weekly nonstop flights from Singapore to Los Angeles and three additional nonstop flights from Singapore to San Francisco;
  • SIA earlier announced the launch of daily nonstop flights from Singapore to Newark;
  • All 20 additional flights will be launched in the last four months of 2018 and be operated with SIA’s new fleet of seven 117-seat A350-900ULRs, which will feature 94 premium economy and 67 business class seats;
  • SIA’s US capacity will increase by 13% as the 20 additional flights are introduced; a much bigger increase would have been achieved if it were not for the suspension of Seoul-Los Angeles service.

As Blue Swan predicted, SIA has decided to operate more than seven weekly nonstop flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco, rather than launch a new North American destination. SIA announced on 11-Jul-2018 it will operate 10 weekly nonstop flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco in addition to the previously announced seven weekly nonstop flights to Newark.

Of the seven A350-900ULRs, three will be used for Los Angeles (10 weekly flights), two for Newark (seven weekly flights), one for San Francisco (three weekly flights) and one will be a spare. All seven aircraft are slated to be delivered in 2H2018.

The first two A350-900ULRs will be used for Newark, which will be launched with three weekly Singapore-Newark flights from 11-Oct-2018 and upgraded to daily on 18-Oct-2018 after the second aircraft is delivered. The next batch of A350-900ULRs will be used for Los Angeles, which will be launched on 2-Nov-2018 with three weekly flights and upgraded to daily on 9-Nov-2018 as another aircraft is delivered.

Los Angeles will be further upgraded to 10 weekly flights from 7-Dec-2018, at which point all the A350-900ULRs will have been delivered. San Francisco will be upgraded from the current seven to 10 weekly frequencies on 28-Nov-2018. Seven of the San Francisco frequencies will continue using the standard A350-900.

SIA launched a daily nonstop Singapore-San Francisco flight in Oct-2016 using 253-seat three class A350-900s (business, premium economy and economy). Blue Swan earlier predicted that SIA would maintain this flight rather than transition it to the 161-seat two-class A350-900ULR (premium economy and economy) in order to be competitive with United Airlines. United launched nonstop flights between Singapore and San Francisco in Jun-2016, prompting the SIA launch four months later, and is adding a second daily flight on the route in Oct-2018 while dropping its Singapore-Los Angeles service.

Blue Swan stated in an earlier analysis that SIA “has done relatively well with the Singapore-San Francisco nonstop flight that it launched in late 2016, with normal three class A350-900s. Switching this flight to an A350-900ULR would not be sensible as SIA needs to continue to have an economy nonstop product in this market to compete with United, which uses two class 787-9s. SIA also carries significant San Francisco – India traffic on the flight and would lose a lot of this traffic if it only operated the all premium A350-900ULR.

“The San Francisco-Singapore nonstop route could potentially support additional frequencies using the A350-900ULR while maintaining the current A350-900 service. The additional frequencies would enable SIA to come close to matching United’s double daily schedule.”

See related report: As United doubles up on Singapore – San Francisco, how will Singapore Airlines respond?

Blue Swan also explained at the time that launching a new destination with the A350-900ULR would be too risky, particularly for typically conservative SIA. “There has been significant speculation on how SIA will use the fifth and sixth A350-900ULRs. A new destination was considered and would be appreciated by Changi Airport, which is keen to add Chicago, Seattle, Toronto or Vancouver to its network map. However, the reality is these destinations – and any destination in North America besides New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco – lack sufficient traffic from Singapore (particularly premium traffic) to support a nonstop flight,” Blue Swan stated in the earlier analysis.

“SIA also does not have strong enough relationships with North American carriers to provide enough feed to make a Chicago, Seattle, Toronto or Vancouver route viable. SIA several years ago served Chicago and Vancouver with a one-stop product. Therefore, the best option for the fifth and sixth A350-900ULR is to actually provide additional flights to Los Angeles and/or San Francisco.”

As expected, SIA is dropping Seoul-Los Angeles as it launches Singapore-Los Angeles nonstop flights. This is sensible because Seoul-Los Angeles has struggled since it was launched in Oct-2016, replacing Seoul-San Francisco which was dropped as SIA launched the first Singapore-San Francisco nonstop.

From 30-Nov-2018, SIA will serve Seoul with four daily turnaround flights from Singapore instead of the current schedule of three daily turnaround flights and the one daily Singapore-Seoul-San Francisco-Seoul-Singapore flight. This will result in increased local capacity for the local Singapore-Seoul market, where demand has been increasing but SIA cannot add flights due to bilateral constraints. SIA is better off focusing on Singapore-Seoul rather than continuing to serve the very competitive Korea-US market.

With the schedule changes at Los Angeles, SIA will have a total of 17 weekly flights (10 nonstop and seven via Tokyo Narita) compared to 14 currently (seven via Seoul and Seven via Toyo Narita). However, total capacity in Los Angeles will decline by 6% as the A350-900ULR has fewer seats than the 777-300ER now used for Seoul and Los Angeles.

In San Francisco total capacity will increase by 13% as the three additional A350-900ULR flights are added. In addition to the current nonstop flight with standard A350-900s, San Francisco is now served with a daily one-stop flight via Hong Kong using 777-300ERs that will be maintained.

SIA is increasing total US seat capacity over the next five months by 13%, driven by the increase in San Francisco and the launch of services to Newark. SIA also serves New York JFK with a daily A380 flight via Frankfurt and Houston with five weekly A350-900 flights via Manchester. These flights will be maintained under SIA’s new US schedule.

However, SIA’s US capacity will still be down 4% compared to prior to the suspension of nonstop flights to Los Angeles and Newark in 2H2013. SIA initially operated nonstop flights on the Singapore-Newark and Singapore-Los Angeles routes from 2004 to 2013 using A340-500s.

SIA one-way seat capacity by US destination: 2013 to 2018

Note: *based on schedule for after 7-Dec-2018, when the last of the A350-900ULRs enters service.
Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation