News

SIA to inaugurate transpacific A380 service

3 Dec 2010 by BusinessTraveller

Fans of SIA will be able to sample the A380 between Singapore and Los Angeles via Tokyo next year. 

Starting on March 27, SIA will upgrade its existing flight on the route from a B747-400 to the newer and larger A380 superjumbo.

The A380 will operate flights SQ11 and SQ12 which are among the most lucrative services on the SIA network.

SIA is able to carry passengers on all sectors. That means SQ11 and SQ12 can carry you from Singapore to Tokyo or Singapore to Los Angeles as well as Tokyo-Los Angeles.

Crucially SIA holds “fifth freedom”* traffic rights for Tokyo-Los Angeles. It means SIA can sell seats for the transpacific leg to both passengers originating in Japan and the US.

Premium passengers will benefit from Suites in first class and fully lie-flat beds in business class. Those in economy class will sample some of the quietest cabins aloft with canny passengers being able to opt for seating in the A380’s rear cabin on the upper deck.  

The existing B747-400s used on the route feature older generation seating  in all classes. Regular first class on the B747 cannot compete with the privacy and space of Suites on the A380. SIA’s business class on the B747 offers angled lie-flat seating disposed seven across (2-3-2) whereas the A380 provides an exceptional four across (1-2-1) layout with fully flat beds.

But why did it take SIA so long to draft its A380s onto this profitable route? The answer is that fifth freedom carriers do not have the clout of end-to-end carriers. It is believed the Japanese authorities would prefer that SIA did not operate the superior A380 between Tokyo and Los Angeles because its own carriers would be disadvantaged. As a result permission was delayed until very recently.

Competitors JAL or ANA ply the Tokyo-Los Angeles route. But neither can offer the kudos of the A380. In addition, their premium products do not provide the same spacious accommodation as does SIA.  It is a similar scenario with the US carriers (United, Delta and American) on this route although United and Delta are busy installing lie-flat beds in business class.

Where these carriers can compete with SIA is that they will, from next year, operate a number of their Los Angeles services out of Tokyo’s convenient Haneda airport rather than far out Narita (the airport used by flights SQ11/SQ12).

Are there any downsides ?

  • The cost of tickets will doubtless increase to reflect the A380’s popularity and its higher standards. It will also be more difficult for FFP members to redeem their miles on A380 services.
  • The existing A380 which SIA operates as a Singapore-Tokyo Narita terminator flight will be downgraded to a two-class A330-300 with regional angled lie-flat business class seating.
  • There is an odd arrival time back into Singapore.

The new service is great news for passengers on RTW (round-the-world tickets) but it also presents business class travellers with a dilemma. 

If flying between Singapore and Los Angeles should they take SIA’s existing all-business class and ultra non-stop A340-500 service or opt for the longer A380 flight ? 

There is no contest if flying first or economy class. But some business class travellers might prefer the A380 especially as the stop in Tokyo enables them to stretch their legs rather than sit out a very long flight aboard the A340.

Although SIA has not officially announced this new service, schedules are now posted on singaporeair.com

Flight details

  • SQ12 Singapore-Tokyo Narita  0925-1730
  • SQ12 Tokyo Narita-Los Angeles 1915-1330 (same day)
  • SQ11 Los Angeles-Tokyo Narita 1545-1915 (next day)
  • SQ11 Tokyo Narita-Singapore 2050-0310 (next day)

Note: Because of the date line, SQ11 arrives in Singapore two days after leaving Los Angeles.

For more information visit singaporeair.com.

Report by Alex McWhirter

* Fifth freedom: the right for an airline of a third country (in this case Singapore) to carry passengers between two other countries (in this case Japan and the US)

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