No economy seats on Singapore Airlines' long-range Airbus A350

By David Flynn, May 24 2017

Singapore Airlines' new Airbus A350-900ULR – the ultra long-range jet which will restart non-stop flights to New York and Los Angeles – will sport a two-class configuration without any economy seats.

As first reported by Australian Business Traveller, the super-efficient airliner – created by Airbus at the behest of Singapore Airlines and now being shopped around other airlines, among them Qantas – eschews an all-business class layout, but the Star Alliance member has to date refused to drawn on the precise make-up of its dual-cabin config.

However, a source inside Singapore Airlines has revealed to Australian Business Traveller that the A350-900ULR – due to take wing in 2018 – will sport the widely-tipped mix of business class and premium economy cabins.

Both seats will adopt next-generation versions of SQ's current designs, including the new business class set to debut on the airline's factory-fresh Airbus A380 superjumbos arriving from October 2017 (alongside all-new A380 first class suites).

Read more: Singapore Airlines'new six-suite A380 first class layout leaked?

Expected to springboard from today's Boeing 777-300ER 'Next Generation' business class launched in July 2013 (shown below), the seats have already been showcased to selected top-tier KrisFlyer travellers behind closed doors at Singapore Airlines HQ in order to fine-tune more practical aspects of the design.

Singapore Airlines has decided against including a compact first class cabin at the pointy end, arguing that the quality of its new business class seats - and the premium price tag attached to the non-stop flights – would minimise demand for first class.

Airbus Executive Vice-President for Strategy and Marketing Kiran Rao revealed to Australian Business Traveller in March 2016 that "during the evaluation Singapore Airlines did ask for a regular economy class seat" for its seven-strong A350-900ULR fleet.

However, the airline felt that price-sensitive economy class passengers would more likely to opt for the cheaper fares on a stop-over service.

Singapore Airlines is expected to retain one stop-over route to Los Angeles and New York alongside its non-stop services, in the same way that it now flies direct from Singapore to San Francisco (on the standard A350-900) as well as to San Francisco via Hong Kong (on a Boeing 777-300ER).

The airline currently flies to Los Angeles via Tokyo and Seoul, and to New York via Frankfurt. 

Just 162 seats makes for a premium Dreamliner

A preliminary LOPA ('layout of passenger accommodations') chart sighted by Australian Business Traveller indicates the A350-900ULR will be fitted with 68 business class seats – almost 2½ times as many as on SQ's standard A350 – and 94 premium economy seats (in a standard 2-4-2 arrangement).

That total of 162 seats is close to Airbus' original expectation, as first reported by Australian Business Traveller, that the A350-900ULR would be fitted with "around 170 seats", and is almost 90 seats less compared to SQ's standard A350 complement of 253 seats.

It also happens to be close to the original two-class configuration of the Airbus A340-500s which Singapore Airlines flew non-stop to NY-adjacent Newark with 64 business class seats and 117 'executive economy class' seats, before the airline modified the jet to have 100 business class seats from tip to tail.

Approached for comment by Australian Business Traveller, a spokesman for Singapore Airlines responded "We will announce and confirm details of the cabin layout of the A350-900ULR closer to the aircraft's entry in to service."

Singapore Airlines’ A350-900ULR is also expected to deliver the full Airspace experience of Airbus’ new-wave cabin design (show below).

Also read: Can Singapore Airlines' Airbus A350 redefine long-range flying?

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Feb 2017

Total posts 25

Will be interesting to see fill rates and whether this is feasible long term. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 225

I think this is the future for premium carriers, there are vast savings on limiting the different meals etc that has to be provided, the key will be filling the PE seats and the price point , then shuffle the economy travellers toward a LCC.
I agree to a substantial extent. I think we'll see more airlines operate a dual-brand strategy with "Air Prestige" and "Air Cheapo", with the latter handling the largest volumes of price-determines-everything passengers on larger jets connected to megahubs, and the former handling the smaller volumes of passengers willing to pay a premium for direct flights/more comfort/etc. using smaller jets. 

Will Full Service Economy ever be fully eliminated? Probably not, but I think we'll start seeing those cabins shrink and the passengers be directed onto an LCC subsidiary. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 222

They'll get me as a client, PE to LAX or SF from SIN!

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@MattJelonek:

But U can already do that today.  SQ has been providing PY onboard their 359 everyday on the SIN-SFO route for 7mths.  No need to wait for 359ULR delivery late nex yr.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 403

Perhaps SQ can differentiate the ULR PE product by offering more legroom & recline than their standard PE product.  Otherwise a stop along the way is arguably preferable.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@GregXL:

Given the known data, a larger PY seat on 359ULR than the current one on 359 is unlikely feasible technically for SQ and here are the reasons:

1.  SQ's 345 used to fit 100 J....a seat design that's similar in size to today's J on 359.

2.  SQ's 359ULR will hv 68 J + 94 PY seats per the LOPA cited by the article.  Size of that J will be equal or larger than today's J on 359 but it definitely won't be smaller. 

3.  345 and 359ULR hv practically the same usable total cabin floor area.

4.  This means in the same floor area, SQ is trading 31 J for 94 PY.  In other words, the max physical size possible for 1 PY is about 1/3 of a J.

Assuming the new J on 359ULR is same size as today's J.  If U've seen today's J on SQ 359, there's really not much room in that same space to fit 3 new PY that can really offer "more legroom and recline" than their current "standard' PY.

"Otherwise a stop along the way is arguably preferable."

And will likely be @ relatively lower fare level as usual re any ULH journey....

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 399

Qantas take note....A350ULH.......... 8 A380 dumped orders = ? A350ULH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2013

Total posts 388

Qantas would prefer an A350-1000 ULR versions get closer to the 300 seat mark. 

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Chris2304:

Unfortunately, "A350-1000 ULR" does not exist even on paper(i.e. an Airbus concept/study) for QF to prefer and convince Airbus to launch it....unless QF behave like EK and ready to commit to a minimum of 50-100 frames...

Unlike how Airbus is squeezing more range for the 359ULR fm the 359, there's no unused fuel tank space in the wing nor the belly center on the 350-1000 to leverage on for a hypothetical 350-1000 ULR...

"...get closer to the 300 seat mark."

Then why not just take the simpler route and order 778 which has been launched, already in development and with known delivery slot dates to choose fm?

At the same kind of drastically reduced cabin density/payload like SQ is doing with 359ULR(i.e 162seats in a cabin designed for 315 seats), a 778 can probably fly 20-21hrs+ nonstop.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Joe:

Which will be similar to how VS suddenly ordered 35K x8 last yr given that they've been perpetually delaying 380 x6 in their firm order backlog...

Though the equation of cancelling 380 x8 = ordering 320Neo x 32 can also work for QF/JQ.....total value on both sides by list price are similar.

Bra
Bra

QF

11 May 2015

Total posts 24

I had a number of flights on the SQ A340-500 non stop EWR - SIN with all business class seating (1-2-1). My longest flight was almost 19.5 hours, and bearable in that configuration. However when SQ introduced the A380 JFK-FRA-SIN I preferred that flight - a bit longer but a bit cheaper too. The proposed Business/Premium Economy configuration for the A350-900 ULR looks good but I will still prefer to go on an A380 via FRA in business and get out for a walk and shower there.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Feb 2017

Total posts 25

I wonder over the next few years how technology (longer haul planes and routes) would match with consumer "tolerance" as anything over 9hrs in Econ really deserves a stop. Airlines would have to start with PE as SIA has done here as standard. I mean if planes could fly 20hrs direct - doesn't mean they HAVE to, do they? And would you fly 20hrs direct in econ?

Surely there must be a diminishing point of return somewhere for Econ. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Mar 2016

Total posts 169

A lot of major carriers now have very long haul routes - QF, QR, EK, SQ just to name a few. Look at Dallas <-> Sydney loadings and they're always really good, even in Y. It hasn't yet proven to be a deterrent it would seem. PER -> LHR will be a bit of a litmus test as there are other viable, proven routes that pax can opt for with a myriad airlines. So will they choose direct, in less time but with no stop and higher cost, or add a stop? I suspect in Y, $$$ will often win unless you're travelling Y on company dime and they want you somewhere ASAP.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

victort:

"....anything over 9hrs in Econ really deserves a stop."

All nonstop routes between AU and N.America are over 13hrs...let alone 9hrs.  Realistically, how many Y pax flying those routes today will choose to make enroute stop(s)?


If make a stop every 9hrs, SYD to LHR would require a minimum of 2stops....shortest journey today is over 22h30m per way.  Even SYD-HND/PEK/PVG would require a stop.


How do U come up with the 9hrs cut-off anyway?  I mean why not 8hrs or 10hrs?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Feb 2017

Total posts 25

Just based on my own personal tolerance for flying in Econ. Other people will have different level of tolerance vs $$$ so that's why i raised the point. Some are happy to fly 20hrs non stop - but for me, after even 5hrs in Econ i just wanna get out!

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

Understand and thx.  So whenever U fly Y fm AU(Except Darwin) to:

Hawaii /LAX= U always make 1 enroute stop....may be Fiji?

China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan= U also make 1 enroute stop.....may be MNL or Bali?

Europe= U always make 2 enroute stops.

Some of these journeys will be logistically complex(e.g.  involve @ least 2 carriers, very long layover/connection, etc.) but yours are very very interesting/unique way to fly intercontinental.

"different level of tolerance vs $$$"

Actually, it's the other way around for longhaul sectors starting from about 12-13hrs nonstop, i.e. the more tolerance U hv to fly further nonstop fm that threshold, the higher fare U'll be paying in $ per extra km.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 515

My limit is about 12 hours. If it's unavoidable like LAX then will put up with it. But to UK sorry but I won't get into Y on a QF789 anytime soon flying non stop from Perth.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 May 2017

Total posts 1

I've flown the SIN->NY direct on SQ - A340 if I am not mistaken - 120 J seats in 1+2+1 config. Must say 17 odd hours on the same plane/seat was weird. Did arrive rested and got it all "out of the way" but it was still a few days at the other end to get into the zone.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@MrDamage:

"but it was still a few days at the other end to get into the zone."

And would suffer exactly the same jet lag even if the alternative 1stop option was taken....

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Current economy should go to LCC altogether and banned on full service airlines. Current PE for such airlines should be norm for lowest class.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Serg:

"Current economy should go to LCC altogether..."

Trouble is current Y on FSC is almost always too heavy(e.g. AVOD in every seat) and consume too much space(e.g. seat pitch on QF is 31in vs JQ @ 28in) in a LCC cabin.  This increase unit cost and rendering a LCC no longer a true LCC....even if its branding ask U to believe it's still a LCC.

"and banned on full service airlines."

And remove the possibility for some consumers who prefer the same Y seat std as on a LCC but paying more for worldwide FFP earning & redemption opportunities+perks, access to global alliance codeshare & connection network, baggage interline, std checked bag allowance+seat assignment+F&B inclusion, flight changes/refund, delay/cancellation assistance or compensation, infant/child fare discount, family travel airport assistance, etc. etc....all these either cost extra a la carte or not available at all fm LCCs.

Must be news to U that the Y fare differential between FSC and LCC is not only about the seat itself....

Y seat, even an extra-uncomfortable one, is not like alcohol that needs to be banned fm small kids.  Most ticket buyers are not small kids.  If not enough consumers choose to pay for it on FSC, mkt forces will ensure its disappearance because real estate inside any cabin is precious and all airlines relentlessly try to find tenants whether they are rich or poor.

"Current PE for such airlines should be norm for lowest class."

And effectively raising the entry/minimum fare to PY level(due to higher production/unit cost) in order to fly FSC?

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

@FLX1
Do not worry - it was just my wish-list and it never happens :-)
Actually too tight seats are health hazard. Stupid suggestions like walking from time to time in practice does not work - imagine all Y pax on A380 wish to walk. So IMHO it must be regulated.
FSC already charging much more comparing to LCC without providing much benefits for Y pax comparing to LCC. So if they will be obligated to install seats with dictated minimum pitch and width they can still make money selling them at current pricepoint.  I guarantee you that if such regulation came in place and FSC became obligated to fit Y seats at as least certain width/pitch then it will not make flying with them more expensive - it is not the case that they have higher cost and therefore charge more, but they cannot charge even more because of LCC exist.
But it just my dreams, so you can safely ignore them :-)))

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

@Serg:

"...too tight seats are health hazard."

And the billion $ question is what is too tight and for whom specifically?

I hv 2 colleagues drinking a dozen bottles of beer each the night b4 our meeting nex morning.  1 of them missed the meeting due to hangover while the other still manage to do an excellent powerpoint in front of our CEO.....how much is too much alcohol to hv?

More importantly, tight seat is a health hazard on FSC but not LCC?  Do LCCs always get healthier pax than FSCs?

"So IMHO it must be regulated."

So U favor gov't intervention in airline industry despite the opposite worldwide trend of deregulation since 1977 in the U.S.? 

If 1 std for FSCs(current PY std as U suggested) and another for LCCs(current FSC Y std as U suggested), U are essentially saying gov't decide exactly what seat specs some airlines should use while others should not.  That will  lead right into a far more difficult issue: What qualifies as a LCC or FSC?  Gov't set the conditions(e.g. diff fare levels) for qualification and we all return to the highly regulated era?

If both FSCs and LCCs are regulated to the same minimum pitch std, we'll be back to square one where FSC and LCC offer the same seat product while achieving nothing per your idea.

"FSC already charging much more comparing to LCC without providing much benefits for Y pax comparing to LCC."

It's an assertion that is clearly not universal given the fact that sufficient pax volume seems to be sustaining Y in FSCs continuously.  Is it possible that some Y pax do see more benefits or @ least value those benefits in FSC higher than U do?

"...if they will be obligated to...minimum pitch....they can still make money selling them at current pricepoint."

An idea grounded in dream more than in airline op economics.....possibly because U believe increasing seat pitch cost nothing beyond thin air.

"they cannot charge even more because of LCC exist."

That's assuming LCC fare level remain constant despite LCC now required to increase pitch to FSC's Y std(per your proposed regulation).  "I guarantee you that" LCC fare level will rise due to reg compliance because:

1.  To increase pitch fm 28in(e.g. JQ) to 31in(e.g. QF), 1 row of Y seats(e.g. 737/320) will be lost for every 10 rows in the same cabin floor area....about 10% lost in capacity.

2.  Op cost per unit of pax will rise because total cost(aircraft leasing, fuel, crew, Mx, landing/nav fee, etc.) of the trip/flight remain similar but now with 10% fewer pax to shoulder that cost even for a full cabin.

3.   Most LCCs already operate on razor thin margin today...most of their spectacular profit are derived fm volume.  If op cost increase 10%, almost no room in the gross margin to absorb that.

If your proposed reg is adopted, only 2 outcomes and both help FSC to raise fare level:

A)  LCC fare level increase due to unit op cost increase....more room for FSCs to raise fare.

B)  LCC fare remain constant and start to accumulate losses and eventually exit the mkt(fewer LCCs exist)...more room for FSCs to raise fare.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

@FLX1
I am too lazy to type answers on all your questions, so just few picked.

"More importantly, tight seat is a health hazard on FSC but not LCC?  Do LCCs always get healthier pax than FSCs?"

Of course not! But then pax can choose what is more important for them - their health or saved dollar.

"So U favor gov't intervention in airline industry despite the opposite worldwide trend of deregulation since 1977 in the U.S.?"
I STRONGLY hated all deregulation in aviation and strongly believe that because of deregulation we have such miserable travel experience nowadays. "Worldwide trend" never equals "right choice". Some stuff must be regulated - herd will die for a dollar even if saving posing health hazard to them.

" What qualifies as a LCC or FSC?"
Carrier should decide by themselves. And clearly advertise it everywhere. If say SQ start to say that they LCC, then they will not be able to sell their seats for as much as today because they will be compared to other LCC. But if they like to call themselves FSC they have to comply with rules. It is that simple.

All other stuff just advocating greediness of airlines and/or flying herd that wanna save a dollar and thus IMHO do not worth to comment. I am not supertall or superheavy, about 182cm and 95kg and I physically cannot fly in today's economy for more than 4 hr or so - I became so exhausted that I have to recover for two days after flying to Europe or back. Thanks to greedy herd that wanna save a dollar.



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