Singapore Airlines to increase capacity to Sydney as new A380s are introduced

Singapore Airlines (SIA) is further increasing capacity to Sydney as it introduces new 471-seat A380s, featuring its latest cabin products.

SIA has announced that one of its five daily Singapore-Sydney frequencies will be operated with a brand new A380 from 18-Dec-2017. The new A380, the first of five new A380s on order from Airbus, is being delivered to SIA in the first half of Dec-2017 in a new 471-seat four class configuration.

See previous report: Singapore Airlines’ USD850 million A380 cabin investment revealed

SIA currently operates A380s in two configurations, with slightly over half the fleet in a 441 seat four-class configuration and the remaining aircraft in a lower density 379 seat four-class configuration. SIA currently operates two daily A380 flights to Sydney – one flight with the 441 seat configuration and one with 379 seat configuration, according to OAG data.

The frequency receiving the new 471-seat configuration is SQ221, which departs Singapore at 8:40pm and arrives in Sydney at 7:40am, and SQ232 departing Sydney at 12:15pm and arriving Singapore at 5:35pm. This flight is currently operated using a 441 seat A380.

SIA’s capacity on the Singapore-Sydney route will therefore increase by 30 seats per day, lifting the total by 2% from 11,333 to 11,543 weekly one-way seats. SIA is operating five daily flights to Sydney in Dec-2017. In addition to the two A380 flights, two are operated with 264-seat four class 777-300ERs and one with 271-seat 777-200ERs. SIA does not have first or premium economy on the 777-200ER, while it will be offering four classes on all four of its other Sydney flights this summer.

SIA has already increased capacity to Sydney over the last couple of years by introducing a fifth daily seasonal flight and reinstating a second A380 frequency. SIA has consistently served Sydney with A380s since Oct-2007, when Singapore-Sydney became its very first A380 route (and the world’s first A380 route as SIA was the launch customer). Over the years SIA has served Sydney with one or two A380 flights, dropping and reinstated the second frequency multiple times.

Melbourne is the only other SIA Australian destination that has been served with A380s but not consistently. SIA currently only operates an A380 to Melbourne during peak periods. In the current summer schedule, SIA will operate the A380 to Melbourne for just one month, from 1-Dec-2017 to 31-Dec-2017, using the lower density 379-seat configuration.

SIA will also use continue to use the lower density 379-seat for its other A380 Sydney frequency – SQ231 (departing Singapore at 12:45am) and SQ222 (departing Sydney at 4:10pm). This flight has sometimes operated using the higher density 441-seat A380, providing more overall capacity for the Singapore-Sydney route.

SIA plans to transition its entire A380 fleet to the new 471-seat configuration by the end of 2020. As a result, Sydney capacity should further increase at some point within the next three years, assuming SIA continues to serve Sydney with two daily A380 frequencies. An increase is likely sooner rather than later as it would enable SIA to offer a more consistent product for the Sydney market.

SIA on 2-Nov-2017 unveiled new premium products for its A380 fleet, which will debut on SQ221 to Sydney on 18-Dec-2017 and gradually be introduced on all its A380 routes over the next three years.

SIA is taking delivery over the next year of five new A380s in the new 471-seat four class configuration. These will be the first five aircraft to feature its new long haul premium cabin products and replace its five oldest A380s, which are being returned to lessors.

SIA plans to retrofit its 14 owned A380s from late 2018 to 2020. These aircraft will have the same 471-seat four class configuration as the five new A380s after the retrofits are completed.

The new 471-seat A380 consists of six Suites, 78 lie flat business class seats, 44 premium economy seats and 343 economy seats. SIA is reducing Suites capacity by 50% compared to the 12 Suites in all of its existing A380s. SIA is increasing premium economy capacity by 22% compared to the 36 seats in all the current A380s. Economy capacity is increasing by 3% or increasing by 40% depending on the configuration while business class capacity is increasing by 30% or declining by 10% depending on the configuration.

For the initial Sydney flight transitioning to the new A380 configuration, SQ221 and SQ232, there will be a 30% increase in business class capacity, a 22% increase in premium economy capacity, a 3% increase in economy capacity and a 50% decline in Suites capacity.

Reducing Suites capacity is a sensible move as the average load factor for Suites since the product was introduced in 2007 has been low. By reducing the number of Suites seats, the load factor should improve significantly without a significant decline in Suites revenue. For the most part only non-revenue passengers (redemption bookings and redemption upgrades) will be turned away.

SIA currently uses its A380 fleet on 12 routes, based on the OAG schedules for the week commencing 6-Nov-2017. Six routes are currently operated only with the 441 seat A380 and three routes are operated with the lower density 379-seat configuration. Three routes are operated with a combination of the two configurations, including Singapore-Sydney.

The business class seat now on the A380 debuted on the 777-300ER in late 2006, or a year prior to delivery of the first A380. The current Suites product debuted with the delivery of the first A380 in October 2007. New premium products for SIA’s A380 fleet are therefore long overdue. The product is starting to become outdated and the interiors on the original SIA A380s are starting to look tired.