Singapore Airlines: USA Nonstop Flights Resume After Airbus Launches New Ultra-Long Range Version Of The A350-900

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Singapore Airlines has announced that it would resume non stop flights to the U.S. while placing orders for the new Airbus A350-900 including seven aircraft in ultra long range version.

A350 SQ AirbusThese flights are expected to resume in 2018, five years after the flights have been stopped operating due to bad yields amid high fuel prices.

The new version of the A350-900 will be more efficient and it will be interesting to see how Singapore Airlines will configure the cabin. The previous flights were initially two class but later reconfigured to Business Class only.

It’s still quite a bit of time until 2018 so SQ will have some opportunity to think about this matter.

Airbus has issued a press release concerning the aircraft and Singapore Airlines orders (access here).

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has selected Airbus’ newly launched Ultra-Long Range version of the A350-900 for non-stop flights to the US. Under an amendment to the carrier’s existing order for 63 A350-900s, seven of the aircraft will now be delivered with an Ultra-Long Range capability for flights of up to 19 hours. In addition, the carrier has placed an additional order for four A350-900s, taking its total firm orders for the A350 XWB Family to 67.

Optimised for non-stop flights to the US, the aircraft, designated A350-900ULR (Ultra-Long Range), will ‎include a modified fuel system to increase the fuel carrying capacity, an increase in Maximum Take-Off Weight, plus aerodynamic improvements, enabling service to the US West Coast, as well as to New York.

I can still remember that these flights were testing my endurance. I flew the Los Angeles route a few times and the New York Newark route once in Business Class short before it was discontinued. I can’t imagine how it had to be flying this super long haul in Economy Class. Earlier this year I got a short taste when my upgrade on the AA flight DFW-HKG did not clear and I had to survive the almost 17h flight in coach. I will never do that again!

Representing a distance of some 8,700 nautical miles, the New York service will be the world’s longest commercial passenger route, with an expected flight time of up to 19 hours.  Moreover, the unique flexibility offered by the A350 XWB allows operators to reconfigure their A350-900ULR to the standard long-haul A350-900 specification should they require it.

That’s a remarkable feature. Should the routes once again become obsolete then SQ won’t be stuck with the aircraft but they have it reconfigured.

Singapore’s national news outlet Straits Times also had a piece about the revamp (access here).

SIA’s chief executive Goh Choon Phong: “Our customers have been asking for us to restart non-stop Singapore-US flights and we are pleased that Airbus was able to offer the right aircraft to do so in a commercially viable manner.”

The airline’s first A-350 will arrive in January and be in operation from April with Amsterdam, Netherlands, as the launch destination.

SIA, which started non-stop flights to Los Angeles and New York in 2004, pulled the plug on the services two years ago due to high operating costs and unattractive yields.

The resumption of flights is expected to give SIA,which has been unable to compete effectively with key rivals like Cathay Pacific and Emirates, a significant shot in the arm.

Mr Goh has said that the twin-aisle Airbus 350 could be the game changer.

“Like it or not, the reality is that the current fleet is simply not as efficient when it comes to long-haul operations… With the new planes, we will have more opportunities to look at how to expand long-haul,” he said earlier this year.

Conclusion

The LAX-SIN schedule for these nonstop flights was always a little bit better than the flight via Tokyo which always arrives at 3:30 in the night. I hope the previous schedule with a Singapore arrival of ~5:30am will return for the nonstop flight since it allows for an early check-in at the hotel after a quick breakfast.

But even for the ‘plain’ A350-900 flights such as the inaugural SIN-AMS it should provide Singapore Airlines with a competitive advantage. Hopefully some of the older Boeing 777 will eventually be replaced.

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