Singapore Airlines (SIA) is expected to upgrade its business class product in the Australia market as it takes delivery of new 787-10 aircraft.
Over the next few years the 787-10 will become the backbone of SIA’s medium haul fleet. SIA is the 787-10 launch customer and has commitments for 49 of the new variant. Boeing rolled out the first SIA 787-10 in early Oct-2017 and the aircraft is slated to be delivered in 2Q2018.
SIA plans to use 787-10s to replace A330-300s and older model 777 variants, which the airline now operates on regional routes within Asia Pacific. Most of this fleet does not offer lie-flat business class seats but angled flat seats in a less than ideal 2-2-2 configuration.
In Australia, SIA operates the A330 on all of its Adelaide flights, half its Perth flights and some Melbourne flights. 777-200s, which have the same business class product as the A330-300s, are used on all Canberra flights and some Perth flights.
Sydney and Brisbane are currently the only markets in Australia that SIA offers a lie-flat business class seat on all flights. Sydney gained this distinction earlier this year as SIA replaced an A330-300 flight with a 777-200ER. Brisbane gained this distinction on 16-Oct-2017, when an A330-300 flight was replaced with an A350-900.
With the 787-10, SIA will be able to offer a consistent lie-flat business class seat product for the Australia market. SIA has not yet revealed any product details for the 787-10 but is planning to use the new aircraft to significantly improve its regional business class product. A lie-flat seat is expected to be introduced. Offering all aisle access is also a possibility given the 787’s relatively narrow fuselage.
SIA’s long-haul business class seat will still be wider and better. However, the gap between its medium haul and long haul premium product will close significantly.
SIA has had an inferior medium haul premium product for a long time, impacting its ability to compete for local Australia-Singapore traffic and Australia-Europe connecting traffic as competitors offer lie-flat business class seats on both sectors. Several of SIA’s competitors in Australia offer lie-flat seat in business with all aisle access on their A330s including Cathay Pacific, Garuda Indonesia, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines and Qantas.
SIA uses its long-haul fleet for approximately half of its Australia flights. This includes A380 flights to Sydney, 777-300ER flights to Melbourne and Sydney, A350 flights to Melbourne and Brisbane and 777-200ER flights to Brisbane, Perth and Sydney. SIA will continue to operate A380s, 777-300ERs and A350s on some flights to Australia but would never be able to only use long haul configured aircraft in the Australian market.
SIA is also phasing out its 777-200ER fleet, which was originally used on long haul routes but rather over the last two years used for select medium haul routes (mainly Australia and India), as A350s replaced 777-200ERs in long haul markets such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Rome. As the 777-200ERs exit the fleet over the next few years, SIA will likely replace some 777-200ER Australia flights with 787-10s in addition to using the 787-10s on Australia flights now operated with A330-300s and 777-200s.
Therefore, upgrading the business class seat on the new medium haul fleet is necessary for SIA to offer a better and more consistent premium product in the Australia market. In addition to all 787-10s, SIA plans to configure a portion of its future A350-900 fleet for medium haul routes using the same new generation regional business class seat as the 787-10. SIA could potentially use the two class A350 regional sub-fleet to replace some of the Australia flights now operated with three class long haul configured A350s.
SIA has elected against including a premium economy cabin on the 787-10 but this should not significantly impact its position in the Australia market as it does not have premium economy on its A330s, 777-200s or 777-200ERs. SIA currently only offers a premium economy option on select Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney flights. First class is only available on select flights from Melbourne and Sydney.