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).
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).