Sydney has welcomed Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) first commercial Airbus A380 service featuring the carrier’s latest cabin products.
Flight SQ221, operated by A380 9V-SKU, touched down in Sydney a little before 0745 on Tuesday, following its near eight-hour journey from Singapore.
The airline conducted a tour of the aircraft for invited guests including Singapore High Commissioner to Australia Kwok Fook Seng and Sydney Airport chief executive Kerrie Mather, as well as travel agents and media during 9V-SKU’s ground time in Sydney.
And following a special ceremony at the gate lounge area, the aircraft took off as the SQ232 back to Singapore a little after 1215.
Sydney Airport chief executive Kerrie Mather thanked SIA for again choosing Sydney to debut its latest products, noting SIA began A380 flights in October 2007 on the Singapore-Sydney route.
“We are delighted to welcome this new A380 to Sydney Airport for its debut flight,” Mather told reporters on Tuesday.
The aircraft is one of five new build A380s the Star Alliance member and Virgin Australia partner has on order.
It features a new-build business class seat, revamped first class cabin with fewer Suites and a dedicated premium economy section at the front of the lower deck.
This new cabin layout will be featured on the five new aircraft being assembled at Airbus’s facilities in Hamburg, Germany and Toulouse, France, as well as retrofitted to 14 other A380s in the SIA fleet.
Under the new configuration, SIA plans to have 471 seats on its A380s, comprising six in suites, 78 in business, 44 in premium economy and 343 in economy. Suites is being moved to the upper deck alongside business class, while premium economy and economy will stretch out across the entire lower deck.
This represents a capacity increase of between seven per cent and 24 per cent from SIA’s two A380 configurations currently flying. The two existing configurations feature either 379 seats (12 suites, 86 business, 36 premium economy and 245 economy) or 441 seats (12 suites, 60 business, 36 premium economy and 333 economy).
Sydney was chosen for the first route for the new configuration A380s as it required only one aircraft to operate a daily service. Sydney is also one of SIA’s busiest ports, with up to five flights a day using various Airbus and Boeing equipment.
Speaking in Singapore after the arrival of the delivery flight o 9V-SKU from Toulouse, SIA chief executive Goh Choon Phong said the new configuration was designed to better match capacity with market demand.
“If we had not reduced the first class cabin, many of those seats would have gone empty anyway,” Goh told reporters at Changi Airport on Thursday, December 14. “You can draw the conclusions from that.”
“The utilisation on business class is better. There will be better revenue opportunities for us to realise.”
The second of SIA’s five new build A380s, 9V-SKV, was undergoing cabin installation when Australian Aviation visited Airbus’s Finkenwerder facility in Hamburg as part of an SIA/Airbus media trip on December 11. The third aircraft, 9V-SKW, was in the paintshop at Hamburg while a fourth sat unpainted at Airbus’s Toulouse headquarters.
SIA expected to pick up 9V-SKV in January, while all five were expected to be in the fleet by the middle of 2018. The five aircraft are replacing the airline’s oldest five A380s, with the fleet size to remain at 19.
The work to retrofit the 14 A380s was due to commence mid-2018 and be concluded by 2020, SIA has said previously.
In terms of potential future routes with the new A380 beyond Sydney, Goh said London Heathrow, which like Sydney SIA services multiple times a day, was “certainly under consideration”.
An announcement would be made “soon”, he said, noting London could not be served daily with two aircraft.
Airbus executives at the delivery ceremony at Toulouse celebrated the handover of a new A380 to SIA, noting the Singapore flag carrier was the launch customer for the world’s largest passenger aircraft a decade ago.
“Back in 2007 we said we could not have picked a better first customer for the A380 and I would like to renew that today,” Airbus chief executive Tom Enders told invited guests and media on December 13.
“With your all-new cabin I think you are again carrying the torch forward for the new cabin generation on A380s going forward.”
And with a lack of new orders for the program in recent times, Enders also expressed hope SIA would someday go beyond its current fleet of 19 A380s.
“I know you have very rigid fleet plans and as important it is for airlines that they don’t buy too many aircraft, I am still hopeful that Singapore Airlines will buy additional ones beyond the 19,” Enders said.
“We at Airbus are absolutely sure that this aircraft will continue to be a stunning success with your customers and a flagship for Singapore Airlines.
“We will support you wherever we can in the years ahead.”
The A380 has been configured with six suites at the front of the on the upper deck, designed by Pierrejean Design Studio and manufactured by Zodiac Seats UK:
Then comes 78 business class seats, designed from the ground up by United Kingdom-based JPA Design and manufactured by Japanese firm JAMCO Corporation:
Meanwhile, the lower deck features 44 premium economy seats manufactured by ZIM Flugsitz and customised by design firm JPA Design at the front of the aircraft in a 2-4-2 configuration:
Followed by 343 economy seats designed and built by Recaro at 10 abreast: