Singapore Airlines is not waiting for the A350-900ULR to restart nonstop service to the United States. Facing competition with United which launched service at the beginning of the month the timetable has been moved up and Singapore Airlines will now launch San Francisco flights nonstop starting 23 October 2016. The timetables do not appear to be updated yet but the new service will replace the Singapore-Seoul-San Francisco operation. That flight is timed similar to United’s nonstop flights. SQ’s Hong Kong option from San Francisco will remain on the schedule as well.
The new operations will fly on a “regular” A350 rather than the Ultra Long Range varietal. The airline says that the aircraft have the range to fly the route year round though seasonal headwinds may require blocking seats. The A350s as configured today offer 253 seats on board (42C/24W/187Y). United’s 787-9 carries 252 passengers on the route (48C/88E+/116Y). Presumably Singapore Air will still take delivery of it’s A350-900ULR aircraft in 2018 to further increase nonstop service to the USA; Los Angeles and New York City are the expected destinations for such. But the San Francisco route – one rumored but not previously confirmed as the “other” nonstop city to be added – is happening now, two years ahead of schedule.
The winter season will see other changes to Singapore’s operations associated with the new route. The Seoul service will move from San Francisco to Los Angeles, joining Asiana (2x daily) and Korean Air (17x weekly) on the route. SQ will also remove the A380s from Los Angeles, shifting to 777-300ERs to account for the additional service frequency. And, finally, The Barcelona-Sao Paulo route (currently 3x weekly) will be dropped, halting Singapore Air’s South America operations.
That the response is coming years ahead of previously announced plans and with the expectation of weight-restrictions on the flight suggests that United’s nonstop offering is hurting SQ’s numbers in a significant way. And the fact that Brazil service remained this long is surprising given the economic challenges there. But, for now, United is clearly in SQ’s crosshairs, a somewhat bizarre move given the recent application to begin codeshare operations on some routes via Houston and theoretical plans to expand well beyond that.
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