Singapore Airlines (SIA) has selected Airbus’ newly launched Ultra-Long Range version of the A350-900 for non-stop flights to the US. Under an amendment to the carrier’s existing order for 63 A350-900s, seven of the aircraft will now be delivered with an Ultra-Long Range capability for flights of up to 19 hours. In addition, the carrier has placed an additional order for four A350-900s, taking its total firm orders for the A350 XWB Family to 67.
Optimised for non-stop flights to the US, the aircraft, designated A350-900ULR (Ultra-Long Range), will include a modified fuel system to increase the fuel carrying capacity, an increase in Maximum Take-Off Weight, plus aerodynamic improvements, enabling service to the US West Coast, as well as to New York.
Representing a distance of some 8,700 nautical miles, the New York service will be the world’s longest commercial passenger route, with an expected flight time of up to 19 hours. Moreover, the unique flexibility offered by the A350 XWB allows operators to reconfigure their A350-900ULR to the standard long-haul A350-900 specification should they require it.
“Our customers have been asking us to re-start non-stop Singapore-US flights and we are pleased that Airbus was able to offer the right aircraft to do so in a commercially viable manner,” said Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong. “This is another example of how we strive to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations by remaining at the forefront of product and service innovation in our industry. It will also further strengthen the Singapore hub by providing the fastest and most convenient air connectivity between North America and Southeast Asia.”
“We are excited to be working with Singapore Airlines to re-launch its premium non-stop service to the US,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President & CEO. “The A350 is the perfect, flexible platform for such operations, offering unrivalled operating economics for the very longest routes. And the wider and quieter cabin will provide the perfect environment for passengers to enjoy the world-famous Singapore Airlines in-flight product.”
The all-new A350 XWB entered commercial service earlier this year and features the latest aerodynamic design, carbon fibre fuselage and wings, plus fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. Together, these latest technologies translate into unrivalled levels of operational efficiency, with a 25 per cent reduction in fuel burn and emissions, and significantly lower maintenance costs.
To date, Airbus has recorded a total of 783 firm orders for the A350 XWB from 41 customers worldwide, already making it one of the most successful widebody aircraft ever. Singapore Airlines is the largest customer for the A350 XWB in East Asia, with deliveries of its 67 aircraft now on order starting in the first quarter of 2016. Deliveries of the carrier’s A350-900ULR aircraft are scheduled to take place in 2018.
The A350-900ULR incorporates a number of necessary changes over the standard A350-900. These include a higher capacity fuel system within the existing fuel tanks, increasing fuel carrying capacity from 141,000 litres to 165,000 litres.
The A350-900ULR has an MTOW of 280 tonnes. The extended range capability is achieved without installation of additional fuel tanks and the aircraft can be reconfigured easily to the standard A350-900 long haul specification.
Singapore Airlines previously operated non-stop services from its home base to New York and Los Angeles between 2004 and 2013 using the A340-500.
Delta has signed on to bring in eleven 777-200ERs, formerly operated by Singapore/Scoot. This adds to the 18 current 777-200ER/LRs in the Delta fleet. A largely unnoticed but significant fleet addition.
Tie this to Delta’s mentioned intention to feed China Eastern’s hub at Shanghai, along with their recent request to get back an Haneda slot recently released to American, and there is no question that Delta is going to continue to double-down on Asian growth. Given the expected growth – particularly in China-US traffic – it’s solid strategy.
Delta’s fleet planning bears watching. They have 12 remaining 747-400s, which is a number similar to the 777s just acquired. There’s a good chance that within the next 18 months, there will no longer be any 747s in US scheduled passenger fleets. United is the only other operator, and neither it nor Delta have shown any public interest in the 747-8.
Unlike American and United, Delta apparently is not a big proponent of the 787. It still has 20 787-8s on the books at Boeing, but given that the deliveries are not scheduled for another 4-5 years, it’s not real likely that these may see Delta colors. Certainly, it’s not likely that -8s are in the cards.
On the other hand Delta may be waiting to get performance numbers from the 787-10 and could switch orders. Or, it’s possible that Airbus has already filled that need with the A-350s that Delta has coming.
Boyd Group Internationam