Singapore Airlines (SQ) has responded to United’s (UA) own new non-stop route to Singapore from one of their main hubs in San Francisco by adding their own service on the route, with the first flight taking off from Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) yesterday and arriving in San Francisco (SFO) today.
While UA operates the route with their 787-9 aircraft, SQ will be using their brand new A350-900 fleet. United, who has been on the route for nearly six months now. So far the flight has been nothing short of a resounding success for them, with very strong forward bookings and the BusinessFirst (BF) cabin operating at nearly 100% load factor with paying passengers. Keep in mind so far BF tickets are averaging at $7,000 a pop so we’re sure United is a happy camper with these numbers.
This is hardly surprising as Singapore is one of the highest yielding cities in the world for airlines ranked amongst the likes of London Heathrow, New York JFK and Tokyo Narita. United puts their 789 aircraft on the route which is a strong indicator of how good the premium demand is:
The Boeing 787-9 aircraft operating the new San Francisco – Singapore service will feature a total of 252 seats – 48 in United BusinessFirst and 204 in United Economy, including 88 Economy Plus seats with added legroom and increased personal space.
United BusinessFirst offers a superior business-class service. The BusinessFirst seat reclines 180 degrees into a lie-flat bed and features a personal on-demand entertainment system with a 15″ touch-screen monitor. BusinessFirst amenities include laptop power, USB ports, noise-reduction headsets, amenity kits featuring Soho House’s Cowshed skin-care products, duvet-style blankets and a multi-course meal with complimentary wines.
United Economy offers complimentary food, soft drinks, juices, beer and wine, tea, coffee and inflight entertainment. Seats feature an adjustable headrest and seat-back monitor delivering a personal on-demand entertainment system.
United Economy Plus offers up to five inches of extra legroom. Located near the front of the Economy cabin, the seats give the added benefit of allowing a swifter exit from the plane upon arrival. The aircraft offers satellite-based Wi-Fi and power outlets.
Given how well United has performed on the route thus far, and the fact that SQ was most likely stung by the fact that United jumped them to the punch on this new and up till now only non-stop service from Singapore to the United States SQ reacted quickly and announced flights of their own, despite not having the ideal aircraft in their fleet yet (they’re on order, slated for late 2017 deliveries).
It was widely thought that Singapore Airlines would start services on the A350-1000 which were specifically designed for Ultra Long Haul (ULH) flights such as this one, but those are only due in a year. -900 variant of the model can’t do the flight without taking restrictions (as in leaving behind cargo, bags and sometimes even passengers to make the aircraft light enough to make the entire journey without a fuel stop). Nonetheless SQ decided to go ahead and take the operational difficulties just to have the flight on their map and bookable.
That said, United faced a similar problem with the 787-9; they also have the 787-10 on order, which can make the flight with no restrictions. But as we’ve heard so far the penalties UA has been taken on the current 87-9 have been minimal on some days, and on most days there’s none at all. A testament to great engineering. We’re sure SQ will hope for a similar performance from their A359s.
Per their press release:
SIA’s Singapore-San Francisco flights will run daily on the Airbus A350-900 aircraft. Flying time will be between 14 hours and 35 minutes, and 17 hours and 45 minutes, depending on direction and time of the year.
Flights will depart Singapore in the morning, also arriving in San Francisco in the morning to enable onward connections to other destinations. Return flights from San Francisco will depart in the morning as well and arrive in Singapore in the early evening.
And the flight schedule looks something like this:
It should be noted that on average Singapore Airlines charges a bit of a premium on their SFO flights over United (a normal occurrence, really) at about $9,000. It should also be noted that SQ is operating the reverse schedule to that of United – almost exactly 12 hours apart. While UA lands at 07:45 at Changi, SQ’s flights will touch down in the evening at 18:40. Given the fact that Star Alliance partners UA and SQ are finally warming up to each other and actually working together codesharing and interlining, this is great news for people who need choice for their business in Singapore. Those who need to transit will be best served with UA’s early arrival into Singapore despite the perhaps substandard product due to their ability to connect onwards to SQ’s massive morning bank of flights to India and South East Asia with cities such as Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta, Mumbai, Delhi, Hanoi, Saigon and beyond well connected to this flight.
The bottom line is simple: two massive, extremely important Star Alliance hubs are now connected non-stop thanks to the marvels of technological advances. There are still some limitations operationally but not enough so to affect the viability of this flight. UA’s initial numbers indicate as much, and we foresee just as (if not more) success for SQ on this route. The real winner here is the Star Alliance elite and indeed the general consumer as well. We look forward to more non-stop connections between Singapore and the United States coming soon! You know it’s unavoidable – it’s going to happen.