SIA plans A380 flights to Zurich

4 Dec 2009 by Mark Caswell

After London Heathrow and Paris CDG it had been thought Frankfurt would be the third European city to receive SIA’s A380 superjumbo. But it now seems Zurich will pip Frankfurt to the post.

At a recent Star Alliance briefing, SIA’s CEO Chew Choon Seng informed the Swiss media that his company’s next A380 which will arrive at the end of January or early February “will be placed on the route to Zurich.”

But before that can happen, Zurich must be approved for A380 operation and to that end Airbus is sending up its test super jumbo from Toulouse on January 20.

Assuming the January tests go according to plan we can expect SIA to launch A380 services at Zurich sometime in the following months.

Why would SIA choose Zurich over Frankfurt ? The main reason is because SIA can use the larger A380’s economies of scale to operate seven rather than 12 flights a week. According to reports in the Swiss media, SIA spokeswoman Christina Hollenweger claimed, “We have a load factor of 67 per cent for the existing B777-300ER flights which is not good for a long distance service. So using a single A380 will earn us more money for passengers and cargo.”

Other reasons are the fact that SIA has the Zurich-Singapore route all to itself (Swiss stopped its service earlier this year) and the fact that Switzerland has a wealthy customer base for lucrative premium fare tickets.

The main issue centres around ground handling. The A380 will use Pier E whose gate area is fitted with two rather than three airbridges for passengers to board and leave the plane.  Normally the third airbridge would connect the gateroom area with the A380’s upper deck enabling premium passengers to board separately from those in economy class.  

“I can tell you that SIA is very keen to come here. We believe three airbridges are not essential for A380 ground handling. Having two [airbridges] is really a quality issue,” says a spokeswoman for Zurich airport, who also said that the construction time for a third airbridge would be between 12 and 18 months.

Certainly that’s been the experience at Paris CDG where SIA, because it uses the older T1 Star facility, must also live with twin-airbridge boarding.

Although SIA will reveal few details, it would seem logical that the A380 is rostered for the two busiest flights, namely SQ345 out of Zurich at 1055 and SQ346 at 0110 out of Singapore. Both provide the maximum number of onward connections into and out of Asia and Australasia.

SIA staff in Switzerland were unavailable for comment. Spokespeople at SIA’s head office in Singapore issued this statement: “Our 11th A380 is due for delivery in early 2010 and we do hope to operate A380 services to Zurich from the spring. However no other details are available at this stage as plans have not yet been finalised.”

For more information

Report by Alex McWhirter

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