Australians will have a new, albeit potentially more circuitous, one-stop option to the US west coast from October when Singapore Airlines (SIA) launches nonstop service between Singapore and San Francisco.
The Star Alliance member said on Thursday the 7,339nm route would be served with Airbus A350-900s in its standard configuration of 253 seats comprising 42 in business, 24 in premium economy and 187 in economy. The first flight was scheduled for October 23.
The announcement came in the same month US-based United began nonstop flights on the ultra long haul route with Boeing 787-9 equipment.
SIA’s resumption of nonstop service between Singapore and the United States comes about two years before the airline was expected to receive the first of seven A350-900ULR (ultra long range) aircraft on order.
Those aircraft were slated for nonstop flights from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York due to kick off in 2018. SIA suspended its nonstop LAX and Newark service in 2013, which were operated with Airbus A340-500 equipment, in 2013 due to high fuel prices.
Thursday’s announcement was part of wider changes to SIA’s Americas network.
Currently, SIA has two daily one-stop flights from Singapore to San Francisco via either Hong Kong and Seoul. Once the nonstop flights begin, the Seoul-San Francisco leg will be scrapped.
Instead, SIA will launch a new daily Singapore-Seoul-Los Angeles flight, complementing its existing daily Singapore-Tokyo (Narita)-Los Angeles rotation.
“Our customers have been asking us to offer more US services and we are pleased to be able to do so,” SIA senior vice president for marketing planning Lee Wen Fen said in a statement.
“With new non-stop San Francisco flights and the increase in frequency to Los Angeles, customers will have two flights to choose from each day to both of these popular US West Coast destinations.”
SIA said flight times on the Singapore-San Francisco route would be between 14hr35mins and 17hrs45mins depending on direction. While SIA’s A350-900s were able to operate nonstop throughout the year, the airline noted there may be some payload restrictions depending on headwinds.
While the new route involved significant backtracking for those living on Australia’ east coast, travellers from Perth to San Francisco may be persuaded to take the SIA one-stop option via Singapore rather than transit through Sydney (which requires a terminal change), Los Angeles (where transit passengers have to clear customs and immigration) or Auckland.
Indeed, Cathay offers one-stop itineraries from Perth to a number of US cities via Hong Kong, while the Gulf carriers also carry some traffic from Australia to the US via their Middle East hubs.
SIA picked up the first of 67 A350s it has on order in March. It was just the fifth airline and second in Asia Pacific to join the A350 club.
After being used on some short-haul flights around Asia, SIA’s first long-haul route for the A350 was Amsterdam, which began in early May. Singapore-Dusseldorf was due to follow in July.
Meanwhile, SIA said it would end its three-times-a-week Barcelona-Sao Paulo service from October 20 due to the “sustained weak performance of the route”. The Brazil economy has been in the doldrums of late and LATAM recently started on the route.
As a result, the Virgin Australia alliance partner and major shareholder will drop off the list of airlines that have service to all six inhabited continents.