Singapore Airlines is expanding the fleet size and operational use of its Airbus A380s, A340s and A330s as this leading Asian carrier benefits from the long-term strategy of employing a young and efficient jetliner inventory.
In addition to being the world’s first airline to utilise A380s in revenue service, Singapore Airlines is growing the number of A330-300s flown on medium- and long-haul flights while also continuing the operation of its A340-500s on record-setting ultra long-range routes.
Mak Swee Wah, Singapore Airlines’ Executive Vice President – Operations & Services, said that more than 2.5 years after the A380’s first flight with the carrier, this 21st century flagship “continues to fascinate the public” while attracting strong load factors in all classes of service.
Singapore Airlines has reached the half-way point in its A380 phase-in, with 10 of the jetliners currently in service from the total 19 on order. Mak noted this marks a real milestone in the carrier’s history, as the number of A380s has now surpassed the total of 747s flown by Singapore Airlines – which once was one of the world’s largest operators of the widebody Boeing airliner.
The A380 has demonstrated a high dispatch reliability of better than 98 per cent in the more than 7,800 flights and 75,000-plus flight hours logged since the aircraft entered service in October 2007, Mak said, with well over three million passengers carried to date.
The A380’s network has been steadily expanded by Singapore Airlines, performing long-haul duties to London, Melbourne, Narita, Paris and Sydney – to which Zurich was added earlier this year. These segments have flight durations from 6 hr. 45 min. to nearly 14 hr., and have been joined by shorter-range service to Hong Kong, which has an en-route time of less than four hours.
“Our first use of the A380s was to link the longer-haul hubs where there is dense traffic as well as issues of capacity and slots, but we continue to look at windows of opportunity,” Mak explained. “Hong Kong is one such opportunity, as it has a good proportion of premium traffic, and we are able to use the A380’s fast turnaround on the ground.”
The new A380 service to Zurich – initiated in late March – operates daily, providing increased efficiency over the previous 12 weekly frequencies with 777s, while also introducing Singapore Airlines’ Suites and new-generation business class seats to this market’s premium passengers.
“We will watch how the world’s other markets develop as they recover from the recession, and continue to look for additional A380 route opportunities in Europe, possibly the U.S., and elsewhere,” Mak added. “The A380 is clearly a passenger-pleasing aircraft, which also is loved by our flight and cabin crews. There clearly is a different ambience aboard, with high marks going to the A380’s space, amenities and very low noise levels.”
Some 230 Singapore Airlines pilots have been trained to fly the A380, while over 4,000 of the carrier’s 7,000 cabin attendants are qualified on the aircraft.
Another new addition to the carrier’s fleet is the A330-300, which has been operating in Singapore Airlines’ colours since 2009. With 13 of the 19 ordered aircraft now in service, Singapore Airlines is expanding its A330-300 operations from three Australian destinations (Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth) and two Japanese cities (Nagoya and Osaka) through the addition of service to Abu Dhabi, Jeddah and Kuwait (the latter two points are served via Abu Dhabi), as well as Male, Fukuoka, Taipei and Colombo – replacing 777s on these routes.
“We have configured the A330s with our latest cabin product and service offerings, and these aircraft are operating at above the industry average with a dispatch reliability of 99.7 per cent,” Mak said. “Singapore Airlines has embarked for the first time on a total support programme with Airbus for the A330s, in which the aircraft manufacturer looks after the maintenance and provides ‘power-by-the-hour support.”
Singapore Airlines continues to utilise its five A340-500s on ultra long-haul service to Los Angeles and New York, with maximum non-stop flight durations of up to nearly 19 hours. This very unique service began in 2004 in a two-class configuration with 64 business and 117 coach seats, and subsequently was upgraded to an all-business cabin layout accommodating 100 passengers – the largest business class capacity of any aircraft in the world, according to Mak.
“We were logging nearly 100 per cent load factors – particularly from New York – until the global financial crisis, and we’re now seeing a rebound in traffic during the recovery,” he added. “This has resulted in our increase of the New York-Singapore frequency from five weekly trips during the recession to daily flights once again.”
Looking to the future, Mak said the planned 2013 introduction of A350 XWBs will provide new levels of efficiency on medium-haul routes, with the possibility of extending operations to longer-range segments.
Singapore Airlines has established an internal programme office to oversee the development and introduction of this next-generation Airbus jetliner, and also created an on-site presence at Airbus’ Toulouse, France headquarters to ensure a close working relationship with the A350 team. A total of 20 A350-900s have been ordered by the airline.