Singapore’s No-Win Decision to Go All Business Class on Ultra Long Haul

I was going to follow up yesterday’s post with some more detailed notes from the US Airways Media Day, but then I figured you guys are probably sick of hearing about it. Maybe I’ll post it in the next couple of days.

Instead, let’s talk about the unenviable position Singapore Air is in. The airline announced today what had been rumored for some time. The five A340-500 aircraft that fly the ultra long haul LAX and Newark to Singapore routes will be converted to all-business class flying.

Sounds good, right? So why is it an “unenviable position”? Those planes have not exactly been the shining stars for the airline. Originally, that plane was expected to have greater range than it ended up having. Now, it can’t even make those routes nonstop with a full load. That’s why the airline has only 181 seats onboard with a mix of the old business class Spacebed and “Executive Economy” onboard right now.

08_03_04 sqflyingpig

I’m guessing they didn’t put First class on because the seats weighed too much. And though they’ll tell you that they put Executive Economy with more legroom onboard because the flight is so long and they wanted to offer a better experience, methinks the truth is that they just can’t put on any more seats and still make the flight nonstop. This plane is pushing it.

So, with fuel prices where they are, these flights must be absolute dogs. They can get a small premium for Exec Economy, but not enough to make up for the fact that there are only 181 seats on that dog of a plane. And they can’t get much in the way of a business class premium because they have the sub-par Spacebed on board instead of the amazing new business class product that they’re putting on the rest of the fleet.

Solution? Kill the Economy seats, put on 100 of the new business class seats, and hope you can charge like crazy for the privilege of sitting there.

SINGAPORE AIRLINES CABIN

Admittedly, this’ll be one heck of an experience to fly. Will it make money? Maybe. They can probably get away with jacking up fares significantly, but with only 100 seats onboard, that’s still going to be a stretch. My guess is that they still just don’t know what to do with those planes since they’ve never lived up to expectations.

Starting in mid-May, Newark will start getting the new interiors, and the transition will be done by the end of June. LAX will have the new configuration by late September. And if you’re booked on this plane in Exec Economy, they’ll rebook you on a one-stop flight. Now there’s a bummer. You’ll be back in regular economy and you have to add a stop.

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