SIA's first new-look A-380 arrives at Changi

Changes have been made in business class, such as more stowage space and a mechanism that turns the seat into a full-flat bed with the push of a button. Passengers in business class getting ready to get off the plane after the Singapore Airlines A-38
Passengers in business class getting ready to get off the plane after the Singapore Airlines A-380 delivery flight from Toulouse to Singapore's Changi Airport yesterday. The double-decker jet has been outfitted with new suites and business class cabins.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI
Changes have been made in business class, such as more stowage space and a mechanism that turns the seat into a full-flat bed with the push of a button. Passengers in business class getting ready to get off the plane after the Singapore Airlines A-38
Changes have been made in business class, such as more stowage space and a mechanism that turns the seat into a full-flat bed with the push of a button. ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI

Airline investing $1b to roll out reconfigured cabins, with more seats to match demand

The first new Airbus A-380 reconfigured for Singapore Airlines touched down at Changi Airport yesterday from the French city of Toulouse, ahead of its first commercial flight to Sydney next Monday.

The double-decker jet has been outfitted with new suites and business class cabins.

London is being considered as the potential second destination once the airline receives more A-380s that it has ordered.

SIA is due to take delivery of four additional planes by the third quarter of next year, while its existing 14 A-380s will eventually be retrofitted with the new cabins by 2020.

The airline is investing US$850 million (S$1.1 billion) to roll out the new cabins on the A-380 in its first refresh since the jet was launched a decade ago.

Chief executive Goh Choon Phong said: "The significant investment demonstrates our... confidence in the future of premium full-service air travel."

The new-look A-380 has 471 seats across four classes - six suites, 78 business class seats, 44 in premium economy and 343 in economy. In comparison, its existing A-380 fleet is configured with 379 seats or 441 seats; both include 12 suites each.

Removing six suites for the new configuration has enabled SIA to add seats in other cabins. "We took the opportunity to optimise the space utilisation," said Mr Goh. "As a result of redesign and reconfiguration, we (have) a lot more seats and, therefore, revenue opportunities."

SIA has already cut the number of first class seats on its Boeing 777-300ERs from eight to four as it banks on business class, where demand is stronger. It halved the number of suites in the A-380 from 12 to six to better match demand.

However, the size of each suite has gone up from 30 to 50 sq ft. They have sliding doors for privacy and a separate bed alongside a leather-upholstered seat and a 32-inch HD touch screen.

Changes have also been made in business class, such as more stowage space and a mechanism that turns the seat into a full-flat bed with the push of a button, but the seat is a bit narrower.

Aside from the four new A-380s that SIA will receive next year, the airline also has 48 A-350s on order, including seven of the ultra-long-range variant that will be used to relaunch non-stop flights to New York and Los Angeles.

Airbus chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier, who was here to welcome the A-380 yesterday, described SIA's investment in retrofitting the jet as a vote of confidence for Airbus.

This comes as the European plane maker grapples with weak sales for this aircraft and is looking to slash production to six or seven A-380s a year, Reuters reported.

An expected order for 36 planes from Emirates has failed to materialise as yet. The carrier is said to be seeking guarantees that Airbus will continue to manufacture the A-380 for another decade.

Mr Bregier said: "We are in a transition phase. I'm sure in a few years, we'll have additional orders, additional customers."

He noted that switching to the A-380 allows airlines to add capacity and grow their market share in airports with slot constraints.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2017, with the headline 'SIA's first new-look A-380 arrives at Changi'. Print Edition | Subscribe