SINGAPORE - When air travel picks up after the Covid-19 pandemic, passengers of Singapore Airlines (SIA) can look forward to flying on board a new fleet of aircraft with brand-new cabin concepts.
SIA is waiting to take delivery of the 31 Boeing 777-9 aeroplanes that it had ordered to replace the earlier-generation large widebody aircraft.
On Sunday (Feb 13), the airline's vice-president of product innovation, Mr Ng Yung Han, told the media about some of the new cabin features that passengers can expect.
He was speaking on board a Boeing 777-9 flight-test plane, which will be making its Asian debut during the Singapore Airshow 2022, where it will be involved in an aerial demonstration.
The Boeing 777-9 has a seating capacity of around 400, depending on configuration, and a range of nearly 14,000km.
SIA purchased the first batch of the aircraft in 2017, and the airline began developing cabin concepts in 2018, taking in feedback from customers, Mr Ng said.
"The pandemic has given us more time to revisit and reiterate some of the concepts we have. We have conducted more sessions with our customers, Boeing, our designers, as well as our seat manufacturers," he added.
"The outcome is a more robust and thoughtful design."
The design includes a "quantum leap" in first class from that of the current fleet. It will be more spacious and have several suite-like features that will be more exclusive and private, Mr Ng said.
Companion travel in first class will also be developed to go beyond just couple-seating and double beds.
Mr Ng said: "While passenger travel had fallen to an all-time low at the height of the pandemic, we have seen a good rebound in the last few months."
He added: "When travel picked up, we saw that the premium segment of the cabin was the first to fill up. This gives us confidence of the future of the premium full-service air travel business."
On Sunday, Economic Development Board vice-president Lim Tse Yong said international air travel is expected to make a full recovery by 2026, and recover to 55 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels this year.
Passengers on board SIA's new planes in business, premium economy and economy classes will also be sitting in newly designed seats in a revamp of what is currently being offered. The seats will be customised with features to increase passenger comfort.
SIA said it will release more details about the flights at a later date. When asked when the new aircraft are expected to be available for SIA, Mr Ng declined to comment.
Boeing expects the first international delivery of its 777-9 planes to be late 2023, with the testing phase that began in January 2020 still ongoing.
SIA said the new planes have lower fuel burn and operating costs than those that they will replace. They will also emit less carbon, and support SIA's sustainability goals and its commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
In this year's airshow at the Changi Exhibition Centre from Tuesday till Friday, the flight-test plane will conduct a five-minute demonstration daily during which the audience can see how quiet its engine is, compared with other planes, Boeing chief pilot Van Chaney told The Straits Times.
He added: "We love coming to the airshows and showing people what these airplanes can really do. We want to put on a show that is way outside what their normal experience is."