Singapore Airlines plans to fly the Airbus A350 aircraft to Australia year-round, but won’t give any hints as to when that will occur.
Speaking with Australian Business Traveller at Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, Singapore Airlines’ Divisional Vice President Public Affairs, Nicholas Ionides, affirmed that while the current temporary Singapore-Melbourne A350 flights “were only meant to be for a few months”, more permanent A350 services will follow.
“Naturally with 67 (A350) aircraft on order and 60 being the A350-900, it will end up in Australia at some point,” Ionides continues, assuring that while “I can’t give you a firm time right now, it’s (indeed) going to go permanently to Australia.”
Flying a predominantly long-range aircraft on medium-range routes like Singapore-Australia presents efficiency concerns for Singapore Airlines, because operating a return service to Australia doesn’t then provide enough time in the day for the aircraft to also visit a long-haul port.
“That’s why you see Johannesburg, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam and San Francisco converting to the A350 first,” Singapore Airlines’ Senior Vice President Sales & Marketing, Campbell Wilson, explains to Australian Business Traveller.
“Clearly, for efficiency, you route the aircraft around short, medium and long haul to make sure they’re in the air most of the time, so I think Australia would likely be… I wouldn’t say de-prioritised, but the first priority will be the long-haul services,” Wilson elaborates.
Plans for new medium-haul Singapore Airlines Airbus A350s
Wilson continues to explain that as more A350s join the Singapore Airlines fleet, the airline would be in a position to grant “early retirement” to a number of Airbus A330 and Boeing 777-200 aircraft which currently serve Australia.
That’s why a new ‘medium-haul’ configuration of the Airbus A350 is on the cards, which would be better-aligned to SQ’s shorter flights, including those between Australia and The Lion City.
“It is correct to say that we are looking at a medium-haul configuration for the Airbus A350, but what that is exactly, we’ll share at the appropriate time,” teases Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong.
Wilson confirms that those aircraft would indeed house “a slightly different configuration” to the current batch of A350s, and that “the product will likely be released next year” when Singapore Airlines begins taking delivery of its newest batch of Airbus A380 superjumbos.
Ionides hints that the first medium-haul configured A350 will take wing in 2018, around the same time that the airline also becomes the proud owner of new Boeing 787-10s – but whether Australia will prove the first destination for the medium-haul A350s remains to be seen.
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Chris Chamberlin is visiting Toulouse as a guest of Singapore Airlines and Airbus.