SIA cuts all-business class flights

27 Jan 2009 by Mark Caswell

Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) ultra non-stop flights to Los Angeles and New York are the latest victim of the global travel turndown.

Right now SIA operates both routes every day from Singapore. But between February 17 and March 25 the airline says it will not operate to either city on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

These special flights are operated by A340-500s in a 100-seat all business class configuration. Until last year they had been configured for a two-class (business and premium economy) layout but following the hike in the cost of oil the decision was taken last spring and summer to take out the cheaper premium economy seating in favour of a more lucrative all-business class layout.

The oil price is critical for the profitability of ultra long flights because, in the early stages of the trip, the plane is burning fuel just to carry fuel.

Initially SIA’s decision was the right one. Until last autumn regular travellers reported that most seats on these flights were taken.

But once the downturn started passenger loads have been dropping off. According to The Straits Times (the City State’s local newspaper) travellers are reporting that some flights have operated with only 30 seats filled.

A question mark must hang over the long-term viability of these unique services. Some analysts maintain that these flights were designed for “boomtime” and not for today’s scenario where firms are cutting back on premium travel. Others say that SIA should have kept premium economy seating so it could offer firms a value for money option.

Readers should note that SIA’s  conventional one-stop flights to Los Angeles and New York continue unchanged.

In other news, SIA says that from June 1 it will withdraw first class seating on flights between Singapore and Bangkok. Although not many regional travellers may have splashed out on first class, the service benefitted those long-haul premium passengers who were transferring at Singapore for destinations further afield.

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Report by Alex McWhirter

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