The first flight A380 passenger flight between Singapore and London arrived into Heathrow this week (Tuesday 18), and Business Traveller was on board.
British aviation minister Jim Fitzpatrick and business minister Pat McFadden were on hand to welcome the superjumbo into Heathrow, and the plane was greeted with water cannons and a brass band playing “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines”.
The only hitch during the flight was at LHR, when the ground crew left passengers standing in the aisle for 10 minutes waiting for the doors to be opened. It is believed that they were being cautious as this was the first time they had hitched the airbridge to the A380 for real.
A shortage of slots at LHR, and the fact that demand for seats on this route outstrips supply, means that SIA is hoping to increase capacity as soon as delivery of new A380 aircraft allows. If SIA converted all three of its daily flights from B747s to A380s this would effectively be the equivalent of flying almost four B747s on the route without the need to buy more expensive slots at LHR.
Stephen Forshaw, vice-president public affairs at SIA, said he hoped that a second flight would be operating with A380s by the end of this year or early next year at the latest. The second flight is likely to be SQ318, leaving Singapore at 1250 and returning from LHR at 2205.
Forshaw added that a second flight to London is more likely than other A380 flights to elsewhere in Europe. SIA is looking at other ways to increase capacity to these European destinations by increasing the frequency of flights rather than the size of the plane, thus increasing choice and also connection possibilities in Singapore.
Other facts from the trip:
- On the A380, the F Class suites are being charged at a premium of about 25 per cent above the normal first class on this route, with J Class surcharged by about 10-15 per cent. SIA says that, so far, passengers have been willing to pay this premium. Some discounted tickets will be available in J Class but not F.
- As reported on businesstraveller.com, SIA is planning to introduce all-business class flights on the Singapore-Los Angeles and New York Newark routes, but this model is unlikely to be repeated on other routes.
- These ultra-long-haul flights from Singapore to LAX and EWR are profitable so are not in danger, especially as they open up new premium passengers to SIA.
- SIA will not be following Air France by placing 10 across on its B777s. In fact, the carrier says the new economy seats are all about giving more space.
- Concerns over technical issues on the A380 (inevitable on a new plane) are managed by contingency use of other aircraft, but more importantly ongoing live monitoring of systems by crew on the ground during a flight means that as a plane lands any issues picked up during the flights are ready to be fixed by ground technicians immediately.