ORIGINALLY planned for 2018, when Singapore Airlines (SIA) is to receive seven ultra-long-range variants of the Airbus A350, the national carrier is now set to launch a non-stop Singapore-US service from October 23 this year, pitting itself directly against Chicago-based United Airlines.
SIA yesterday made public intentions to fly Singapore-San Francisco direct daily, a route United just launched on June 1, operated by a 787-900 Dreamliner.
The two airlines are also members of the Star Alliance, but competition is understandably strong in a bid to capture a slice of the lucrative Singapore-US route, which, if United’s inaugural launch earlier this month is any indication, will receive keen uptake from high-yield corporate travellers.
Speaking to TTG Asia e-Daily prior to this announcement, Laurence Chin, country manager Singapore and offline sales, United Airlines, said competition is “welcome”, when asked if SIA’s plans to launch non-stop flights in 2018 from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York pose any threat.
“We welcome competition because we believe that by having good, robust and fair competition, everybody benefits. The consumer obviously benefits and we benefit by being forced to come up with better products to compete effectively,” he said.
But SIA is taking steps to make sure its North America business stays solid with several upcoming changes to its routes.
It currently also flies direct to San Francisco from Hong Kong and Seoul, but the service from Seoul will be discontinued and rerouted to Los Angeles instead, from October 23, coinciding with the Singapore-San Francisco debut. This is seen as a move to optimise capacity since SIA already operates Tokyo-Los Angeles.
At the same time, SIA is detracting from South America with the cessation of its thrice-weekly Singapore-Barcelona-Sao Paulo services, after October 20, instead flying only from Singapore to Barcelona without a connecting flight to Brazil.
A lingering concern remains if SIA’s choice of aircraft, the Airbus A350-900, will suffice to ply the miles between Singapore and San Francisco, but the carrier assured in a statement that “the A350-900 is able to operate nonstop San Francisco flights on a year-round basis, although depending on headwinds there will be some payload restrictions which will result in some seats not being offered for sale.”
SIA was the first airline to launch direct flights between Singapore and the US, but suspended the services to New York and Los Angeles back in 2013.
Unlike its former Singapore-US ventures however, SIA will be offering 253 seats in business, premium economy and economy class, which should be more commercially viable compared to the 100 all-business class seats it previously offered aboard an Airbus A340.