SIA to fly non-stop to San Francisco

Two fire engines giving the first of 67 Airbus 350s a water-cannon salute on its arrival at Changi Airport's Terminal 3 on March 3. The new SIA flights to San Francisco will use A350-900 aircraft.
Two fire engines giving the first of 67 Airbus 350s a water-cannon salute on its arrival at Changi Airport's Terminal 3 on March 3. The new SIA flights to San Francisco will use A350-900 aircraft.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Daily morning flights starting from Oct 23 will use A-350s and save up to three hours of travelling time

Travellers to the United States will have another non-stop flight to San Francisco from Oct 23 - an addition that is expected to be a boon for businesses and start-ups.

Singapore Airlines said yesterday that it will start flying non-stop to the city on that date, saving up to three hours of travelling time.

The announcement comes two weeks after United Airlines (UA) started the only non-stop flights between the US and Singapore, departing from San Francisco.

 

The new SIA flights will take off daily using the Airbus 350-900 aircraft, with a flight time of between 14 hours and 35 minutes, and 17 hours and 45 minutes.

These will be SIA's longest flights until 2018, when an ultra-long- range variant of the A350-900 enters service. It has seven A350- 900ULRs on order, which will allow even longer flights - to both Los Angeles and New York.

The airline had axed a near 19-hour trip to New York and direct flights to Los Angeles in 2013 due to high fuel prices and weak demand.

Centre for Aviation analyst Brendan Sobie believes that lower fuel prices and technology will help the carrier's US non-stop flights to be profitable this time.

This is even if the demand environment is similar and even as competition has intensified since 2013, he said, pointing out that the A-350 is a "much more efficient aircraft" than the A340-500 used in the previous flights to New York and Los Angeles.

Mr Hansen Goh, co-founder of local consumer robotics start-up Sybo Tech, is moving to San Francisco later this month. He believes the shorter flights will spur more Singaporean firms to head there.

"I don't think it's a stretch to say that the addition of these flights will impact the start-up scene here," he said, noting that the distance had put off some companies.

"The direct flight is something that Singaporean start-ups have been looking forward to," he added.

SIA's new flights to San Francisco will leave Singapore in the morning and arrive in the United States in the morning, to enable onward connections to other destinations.

Return flights will leave San Francisco in the morning and arrive in Singapore in the early evening.

SIA will also add a second daily flight to Los Angeles on top of its current one via Tokyo, and stop flights to Sao Paulo in Brazil.

It is halting its three weekly flights to Sao Paulo via Barcelona as "a result of the sustained weak performance of the route".

The last flight will be on Oct 20, but services between Singapore and Barcelona will continue.

SIA flies to San Francisco twice daily now, via Hong Kong and Seoul. The new non-stop service will see the Seoul route operate as a Singapore-Seoul-Los Angeles service, also from Oct 23.

"Our customers have been asking us to offer more US services and we are pleased to be able to do so," said SIA's senior vice-president for marketing planning, Ms Lee Wen Fen.

Senior vice-president of market development for Changi Airport Group Lim Ching Kiat said SIA's moves "augment Changi Airport's position as the preferred gateway between South-east Asia and the US".

Mr Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor of aviation magazine Flightglobal, said the new flights were likely prompted by UA's recent launch.

He said: "These moves by United and SIA show how new, fuel-efficient types such as the (Boeing) 787 and A-350 make these long-haul routes viable, especially in the prevailing low-fuel-cost environment."

Mr Hugh Mason, chief executive of Singapore-based accelerator JFDI.Asia, said the non-stop flights will not only help home-grown businesses to connect with the Bay Area, but also lead to more investors, entrepreneurs and senior executives choosing Singapore as a stopover.

Singaporean venture capitalist Ong Peng Tsin flies to San Francisco about four times a year to meet business partners in Silicon Valley. He said: "The direct flights just make these trips that much less draining. I'm glad SQ decided to crank that direct route up."

•Additional reporting by Lee Xin En

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2016, with the headline 'SIA to fly non-stop to San Francisco'. Print Edition | Subscribe