Buried deep in a press release about Singapore Airlines’ new A350 and A380 order, they also revealed that in the fourth quarter of 2013 they’ll be discontinuing the world’s two longest flights, namely between Singapore and Newark/Los Angeles:
As part of the deal, Airbus has agreed to acquire SIA’s five A340-500s, which will be removed from service in the fourth quarter of the 2013 calendar year, in line with the Airline’s policy to maintain a young fleet. This will result in the cessation of non-stop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles and between Singapore and Newark, in the absence of replacement aircraft in the SIA fleet with sufficient range and operating economics.
This is interesting given that Singapore only took delivery of their five A340-500 aircraft in 2003 and 2004, so these are hardly old aircraft. And while they do tend to maintain an extremely modern fleet, these planes are still newer than a majority of their 777-200 fleet, which was delivered as far back as 1998.
So I doubt Singapore is discontinuing these routes because of the need to retire these planes, but rather is doing so because they’ve been given a convenient opportunity by Airbus as part of a larger deal.
Singapore has always struggled somewhat with these ultra longhaul flights. Initially they had business class and premium economy on them, and then a couple of years ago they removed premium economy so they would have just 100 business class seats. That reduced the weight of the aircraft somewhat, and also let them focus on selling their new business class product.
The issue with the route is probably twofold — the A340-500 is a gas guzzler, and operating any ultra longhaul flight is extremely inefficient. The A340-500 can carry roughly 400,000 lbs of fuel, so when you think of how much of it you’re burning just to carry that extra weight for the first portion of the flight, it really is quite expensive. So I doubt this was ever an especially profitable route for Singapore and they kept it around mostly for the prestige, though are probably happy to have the opportunity to get rid of it.
Singapore’s only service out of the New York area now will be to Frankfurt, with connecting service to Singapore. While Frankfurt isn’t that far out of the way when flying from New York to Singapore, there’s still something a bit weird about Singapore Airlines no longer operating any service out of New York directly to Asia (wherever it might be).
Singapore Airlines does release award space on the flights between Newark/Los Angeles and Singapore to their own KrisFlyer members (transfer partners with Membership Rewards), so I’m quite tempted to try and redeem miles for the last flight once the date is announced. Hopefully it’s not as touching as the 747 retirement flight, or I may need to bring a box of tissues. 😉