SINGAPORE: Flag carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) picked up the first of its five new A380s on Thursday (Dec 14).
The new planes have had the number of seats in Suites class cut by half, while the number of Business class seats have increased by 30 per cent. More seats have also been fitted in the Premium Economy and Economy class cabins, compared to the existing A380s.
The delivery flight arrived at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 at 9.50am from France's Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, following a send-off ceremony organised by Airbus.
Singapore Airlines picks up the first of its five new A-380 airbuses - that feature brand new seats and inflight entertainment. Watch: Aircraft lands at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 from Toulouse, France. pic.twitter.com/gviSqcxxoN— Elizabeth Neo (@ElizabethNeoCNA) December 14, 2017
The double-decker jumbo jets have also been fitted with new seats, in-flight entertainment screens and other cabin products.
More Premium Economy and Economy seats, which are in the lower deck, have been fitted in the planes.
The 471-seat jets have six seats in Suites class, 78 in Business class, 44 in Premium Economy and 343 in Economy.
SIA’s current fleet of A380s has 441 seats, of which 12 are in Suites, 60 in Business class, 36 in Premium Economy and 333 in Economy.
Under the new configuration, seats in Suites have 60 per cent more space, and are located on the upper deck together with the Business class seats.
The airline will receive another four new A380s by the third quarter of 2018.
It will also progressively retrofit the 14 existing A380s, which will be completed by the end of 2020. SIA said it invested US$850 million in the research and development of the new products on the 19 A380s.
SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong said the arrival of the new A380s is a milestone for the company, noting that SIA was the first airline to fly the A380s in 2007.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, he said: “This particular reconfiguration has the benefit of bringing the best and enhanced product to our customers. And at the same time increasing the number of seats on the plane, which means more revenue opportunities."
In a statement, Airbus CEO Tom Enders said: “The aircraft (A380) has proven to be a huge commercial success in service with the carrier, flying passengers efficiently and in comfort on the airlines’ long haul and regional network."
Airbus’ President and Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier said the company is happy with its partnerships in Singapore.
"We have joint ventures for training and simulation here for wide-bodies, for A330s, A350s, A380s. This is for us the biggest training centre. In a few years, there will be eight full flight simulators. We have also Singapore as a hub for the distribution of all our spare parts in Asia Pacific. We have a big team here."
The upbeat comments came as Airbus is considering cutting production of the A380s to six or seven aircraft per year, though the company has not made a final decision on the matter.
But an analyst Channel NewsAsia spoke to noted that the A380 has seen fewer orders in recent years, despite its popularity among passengers. This is because the aircraft is mostly used for key trunk routes.
Mr Greg Waldron, Asia Managing Editor at Flightglobal, said: “If the airline buys a smaller aircraft they can also use them on these big trunk routes but they can also transfer it to other routes if need be. So it's really more of a flexibility issue."
“The move by SIA to revamp the cabin is a vote of confidence. I think they realise passengers really like the aircraft, I think they see a lot of utility on these key routes. The real question is whether SIA likes the aircraft enough to place new orders, and indications from SIA are that they don't. They're quite happy to stay with 19,” he added.
SIA's new A380 will make its first flight on the Singapore to Sydney route next Monday. The A380s will also fly to Auckland, Beijing, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne, Mumbai, New Delhi, New York, Paris, Shanghai and Zurich.