SIA to resume non-stop flights to US with new variant of A-350

SIA A-350 XWB in the paint shop at the Airbus HQ in Toulouse, France.
SIA A-350 XWB in the paint shop at the Airbus HQ in Toulouse, France.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - Singapore Airlines (SIA) will resume non-stop flights to the United States in 2018 with a new variant of the Airbus 350, which the European plane maker has agreed to build.

SIA will be the launch customer for the A-350-900ULR and has ordered seven of the ultra long-range jets, both the carrier and Airbus announced on Tuesday (Oct 13). This will take SIA's total order for the A-350s to 67.

The new plane will be able to fly up to 8,700 nautical miles compared to the A-350-900 which can do up to 7,600.

Said SIA's chief executive Goh Choon Phong: "Our customers have been asking for us to restart non-stop Singapore-US flights and we are pleased that Airbus was able to offer the right aircraft to do so in a commercially viable manner."

The airline's first A-350 will arrive in January and be in operation from April with Amsterdam, Netherlands, as the launch destination.

 
 

SIA, which started non-stop flights to Los Angeles and New York in 2004, pulled the plug on the services two years ago due to high operating costs and unattractive yields.

The resumption of flights is expected to give SIA,which has been unable to compete effectively with key rivals like Cathay Pacific and Emirates, a significant shot in the arm.

Mr Goh has said that the twin-aisle Airbus 350 could be the game changer.

"Like it or not, the reality is that the current fleet is simply not as efficient when it comes to long-haul operations... With the new planes, we will have more opportunities to look at how to expand long-haul," he said earlier this year.

It will be interesting to see how SIA configures its new A-350-900 ultra long-range jets, experts said.

When the non-stop flights were first launched with the Airbus 340-500 aircraft, it offered a two-class product but the airline later reconfigured the jets to make it an all business-class aircraft.

It proved a wrong move when the 2008 financial crisis hit, and high fuel prices made it unviable for SIA to operate the four-engine plane to the US.