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

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SeaFlyer
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They will probably need a 75% load at $4000 each-way per person to break even.

Jason H
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I’m actually suprised that Singapore Air hasn’t publically demanded compensation from Airbus for failure to deliver a produce that met expectations.

Bryan in San Francisco
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Bryan in San Francisco

Which way to the passenger ship? Bring back ocean lines. :)

seth
Guest
I’m not completely convinced that it is a no-win endeavor. I cannot find a CASM number for SQ that is current, and the numbers will skew with the fewer seats on the plane since the fuel costs won’t actually drop, but it looks like the number is about $200K in cost for each direction. That would mean that 50% load at $4K would break even. Still, everything I’ve read basically says that the A340-500 is a beast to operate and cannot compete with the 777-200LR on CASM numbers, so the cost for running the flights has to be high enough… Read more »
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[…] Discourse – Nomed Letters: Making Good News out of nothing at All – The Cranky Flier: Singapore‚Äôs No-Win Decision to Go All Business Class on Ultra Long Haul – To Fix a Mocking Peasant: Sex, Rationality and […]

Mike
Guest

I’ve got family in Charlotte. US Airways owns CLT. I enjoyed your posts about Media Day.

Jeff
Guest

Might be a good way to remove FF miles from their base via more upgrades as there will be many more biz seats on that sector now. But will you get that upgraded sensation (read: ego trip) if everyone else is in the same class??? If they do save some weight with only 100 c-class seats (a big maybe) they can carry more cargo – the high margin kind that is time sensitive. And you are right – there is no F class due to the weight of the seats (Thai had the same issue on their 345s).

Winston
Guest
Interesting article, but you need to add in three other factors that SQ considered before they made the decision to go all J-class on the 345. 1) The new J-class seat is physically lighter than the older Spacebed product. This allows for revenue cargo to be flown to and from EWR & LAX (The current configuration does not allow for any cargo save for pax luggage.) 2) Historically, the J class load factors on both SIN-LAX vv. and SIN-EWR vv. flights have been obscenely high for all flights, even after accounting for the sub-prime crisis. It’s the Y+ load factors… Read more »
QRC
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Cranky! My man…finally an article about Asian airlines. When are you going to figure out that as an airline buff you should move over to Asia asap and ignore the loads of crap in the US? Imagine…HKIA filled to the brim with wide-bodies, airports that are actually convenient and seamless security, usually all the airports a pleasure to travel through, spacious, airlines that have offered beds in business class for a while (AA is making their intl business class seem like they’ve reinvented the wheel..when they’re really just rolling out what Cathay now calls their “old” business class). I’ll shutup… Read more »
Christopher Dye
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Your piece illustrates a puzzling paradox about SIA: It has a deserved reputation as a very well run airline but regularly has made bad fleet decisions. Initally they went with the MD-11, which they cancelled because it did not meet specs. They then went with the 340-300, which they also get rid off, this time because it was underpowered and could not climb fast enough over the Indian Ocean, something one would think they could have figured out before buying the plane. They replaced the 340s with 777-200ERs, oviously a great choice. Then instead of going with the -200LR which… Read more »
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[…] already chimed in on the issue. Jared Blank thinks this will be a cash cow. The Cranky Flier is skeptical, calling it a “no-win,” and throwing some barbs at the aircraft for good […]

Albert
Guest

We have it easy here in AsiaPac. Keep on blogging about the “mess” that is American carriers. Some of us are living vicariously through this blog! ;)

uniquely singapore
Guest

It could be a case of milking it all for what it’s worth while they still can, considering that they might not really know what to do with it. With the reputation they have for flight service I am sure there will be no (huge) shortage of takers.

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[…] already chimed in on the issue. Jared Blank thinks this will be a cash cow. The Cranky Flier is skeptical, calling it a “no-win,” and throwing some barbs at the aircraft for good […]

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