Singapore Airlines (SIA) yesterday took delivery of its newest long- haul jetliner - the Airbus 350 - the first of 67 such jets that the airline has ordered.
In a ceremony at the Airbus Delivery Centre in Toulouse, France, the European manufacturer handed the "keys" to the gleaming jet to SIA chief executive Goh Choon Phong.
About 150 guests were treated to a two-minute-long, behind-the- scenes video of the making of the A350-900 in a darkened auditorium before the blinds were raised - revealing the aircraft on the Tarmac outside, resplendent in SIA's livery.
In his speech yesterday, Mr Goh said the addition of the A-350 to SIA's fleet underscores the airline's commitment to operate a young and modern fleet.
"The A-350 will be a game-changer for us, allowing for flights to more long-haul destinations on a non-stop basis, which will boost our network competitiveness and further develop the important Singapore hub," he said.
The national carrier will take delivery of another 10 A-350s this year. It will use the jets to fly to Amsterdam, Netherlands, in May and Dusseldorf, Germany, in July.
But the aircraft will initially be operated on flights within Asia for crew training.
SIA has also ordered seven ultra-long-range variants of the A-350-900, which it intends to use to fly non-stop to destinations in the United States, such as New York and Los Angeles, in 2018 .
The A-350 can carry more than 300 passengers in a three-class layout, and is touted by Airbus to be 25 per cent more fuel-efficient than rival aircraft in the same category.
SIA has configured the jets with 253 seats in three classes - 42 seats in business, 24 in premium economy and 187 economy seats.
More than half of the plane, by weight, is made up of carbon-fibre composite materials, and another 14 per cent of titanium.
The airline is also launching a new companion application that will allow travellers on the A-350 to control the in-flight entertainment system with their tablet devices.
After the ceremony yesterday, SIA's A-350 left Toulouse and is scheduled to arrive at Changi Airport today. Veteran pilot Quay Chew Eng will be in the cockpit steering the new plane home.
Captain Quay, who has 38 years of flight experience and is SIA's acting senior vice-president of flight operations, has flown other Airbus jets, including the A-340 and A-320.
He told The Straits Times the new A-350 has similar handling characteristics to other "fly-by- wire" - meaning the plane is controlled electronically, as opposed to mechanical systems - Airbuses he has flown.
Asked how he landed the coveted spot as captain of the A-350's flight home, Capt Quay said: "It's always good to be flying a new aircraft... Just my luck, I guess."