SIA to resume non-stop flights to US in 2018

New York, LA services to use A-350 variant; carrier also considering other destinations

Visit to SIA A350 XWB in the paint shop at the Airbus HQ in Toulouse, France on Oct 12, 2015.
Visit to SIA A350 XWB in the paint shop at the Airbus HQ in Toulouse, France on Oct 12, 2015. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Singapore Airlines (SIA) will resume non-stop flights to the United States in 2018, a move experts said will give its placid long-haul business a much-needed shot in the arm.

The services will be operated using a new, ultra-long-range variant of the Airbus 350, which the European plane maker will build for SIA.

SIA will be the first to fly the A-350-900ULR. It has ordered seven such jets, both the carrier and Airbus announced yesterday.

This will take SIA's total order of A-350s - made up mainly of the A-350-900, which the airline will start flying commercially in April next year - to 67.

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

A non-stop flight from Singapore to New York will take about 19 hours, while getting to Los Angeles will take about 14 to 15 hours. SIA is also considering flying to other points in the US.

SIA chief executive officer Goh Choon Phong said: "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."

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

Services were then operated using the four-engine A-340-500 jet.

When the non-stop flights were first launched, SIA offered a two-class product but later reconfigured the aircraft with only business-class seats. It proved a wrong move when the 2008 financial crisis hit and high fuel prices made operating the flights unviable.

Aviation analyst Shukor Yusof said resuming non-stop services to the US is an "excellent, far-sighted move". He said: "I'm not sure about Los Angeles but there is definitely demand for such a service on the Singapore-New York sector."

The services, expected to draw a good response from travellers in the region, will also boost Changi's status as an air hub, he added.

While the configuration for SIA's A-350-900 ultra-long-range jets has not been announced, Mr Shukor said the airline would be wise to avoid fitting the planes with just business-class seats. "A two-class plane with business and premium economy seats would offer travellers more diversity and choice."

When the Singapore-New York flights resume, SIA will once again operate the world's longest commercial flight.

The title, now held by Qantas for its 17-hour Dallas-Sydney service, will go to Emirates when the Middle Eastern carrier starts a 171/2-hour flight between Dubai and Panama next February .

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline 'SIA to resume non-stop flights to US in 2018'. Subscribe