Singapore Airlines (SIA) says its US$80 million investment to introduce a premium economy cabin on its Boeing 777-300ER, Airbus A380 and A350 fleet will boost yields and meet the demands of a growing customer segment willing to pay more for some additional in-flight comforts.
And the airline is promising to offer “hard to refuse” prices for its new cabin as it begins a fresh marketing push ahead of its entry into service on the Singapore-Sydney route in early August.
The new premium economy seats, first announced in February, were presented to invited guests and media at an event in Singapore on Thursday.
Described as a “a great new way to fly”, SIA will roll out premium economy to long-haul destinations including London Heathrow, Paris, Frankfurt, New York JFK, Munich, Manchester, Zurich, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Meanwhile, medium-haul destinations from Sinapore to Hong Kong, Sydney, Auckland, Delhi, Mumbai, Tokyo Narita, Shanghai Pu Dong and Seoul Incheon were also slated to receive premium economy service.
SIA executive vice president for commercial Mak Swee Wah said the seats and on-board offering were developed after two years of research and focus group studies with customers and design partners.
“Many of our customers have been asking for a Premium Economy offering and we are confident that what we are delivering will exceed their expectations,” Mak said in a statement on Thursday.
SIA’s fleet of 19 777-300ER and 19 A380 aircraft were due to be reconfigured with premium economy by the end of 2016. The airline is also adding the cabin between economy and business on the first 20 A350s the airline has on order. The first A350 is due to be delivered in early 2016.
The first flight with premium economy was scheduled for August 9, with the SQ221 departure from Singapore on the A380. Three days later, on August 12, the first 777-300ER premium economy flight, also to Sydney, was due to commence with the SQ231.
SIA chief executive Goh Choon Phong said the airline had “reviewed many times every year” the premium economy concept before deciding to launch the new cabin in 2015.
“We have determined that it is now the right time to do so, with the market adequately educated in that product,” Goh told media and analysts during SIA’s full year results briefing on May 15.
“And that demand for it is building up on key sectors.
“Of course when we introduce, we introduce it our way, which is marketed differently from the existing products in the premium economy.”
Goh said the airline was investing in new product, aircraft and customer service training for staff as part of efforts to ensure it remained competitive in the market.
Thursday’s event in Singapore is expected to kick off a new marketing push for SIA’s premium economy ahead of its August debut.
During the company’s results briefing, Mak said the product had been “quite well received by commentators”.
“We are already seeing some bookings,” Mak said.
“Once we start our marketing campaign, we should be able to then see the bookings come in, in the next few months, until the entry into service in August.”
Mak said there was a clear market segment segment that wanted an option between business and economy and SIA would offer a competitive product in that segment.
“Certainly we will hope that through optimal pricing we will be yield accretive,” Mak said.
“It’ll be sold at the price that hopefully our customers will find hard to refuse. And we will make sure that, you know, we make it a success.”
A dummy booking on the Singapore Airlines website showed a return ticket departing Sydney on August 10 and returning from Singapore a week later was $2,216.94.
By comparison, a British Airways trip on the same route on the same dates in premium economy was $1,959.14. BA is the only other carrier offering premium economy on the Sydney-Singapore route.
SIA’s premium economy will have 38-inch seat pitch and seat width of 18.5 or 19.5 inches, with passengers able to access a “Book the Cook” menu, checkin via a dedicated line and offered champagne on board. Inflight entertainment is provided through a 13.3-inch HD monitor.
The seats were manufactured by ZIM Flugsitz GmbH (A380 and 777-300ER) and Zodiac Seats US (A350).