SIA's Airbus A380 plane to return to service, to be used for VTL flight from London from Nov 18

The jumbo plane will fly from Singapore to London as flight SQ322, and return as flight SQ317. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The long-grounded Airbus A380 planes from Singapore Airlines (SIA) will return to passenger service soon, after being grounded for more than 1½ years due to the dip in passenger demand from the Covid-19 pandemic.

SIA said on Thursday (Oct 14) that it will resume A380 operations from Nov 18 on one of its non-stop return services between London and Singapore.

The jumbo plane will fly from Singapore to London as Flight SQ322, and return as Flight SQ317.

SQ317 is a designated flight from London that will ferry vaccinated travellers coming into Singapore under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme. Travellers from the United Kingdom can tap the quarantine-free travel scheme from Oct 19.

Explaining the move to reactivate the Airbus A380, SIA said: "With the inclusion of UK in the VTL arrangements, SIA has seen strong passenger demand for services to and from London towards the year-end holiday season.

"The A380 has always been a popular choice for our customers and we look forward to welcoming our customers on board the aircraft once again."

SIA said it will deploy the A380 on an ad hoc basis on short-haul services before deploying the aircraft for flights to London.

It added that it will remain nimble and flexible in deploying capacity to markets in response to demand.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, SIA had a fleet of 19 A380s.

It grounded the fleet around March last year as the Covid-19 outbreak rapidly worsened. It has since said it will retire seven of the planes.

Doubts had grown in the industry over the plane's future in recent years, with some carriers having trouble filling up enough seats on the plane to make it profitable.

Airbus had announced in February 2019 that it would cease production of the plane.

Mr Mayur Patel, head of Asia at flight data and analytics provider OAG Aviation, said the restoration of the A380 to service was good news.

He said SIA's suites class on the plane will allow it to offer a differentiated product from other carriers.

But he added that the larger seat capacity of the A380 will be at odds with the daily limit of 3,000 passengers being allowed to enter under the VTL.

"The issue then becomes how do the airlines manage that, because it's not just SIA, but there are also other foreign airlines operating VTL flights," said Mr Patel.

"That could become a bit of a dampener, with more seat capacity allocated to one market and less for the others."

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