Singapore Airlines May Cut Los Angeles To Seoul Incheon Route

We know that Singapore Airlines is making some changes to their US route network over the coming months as they introduce their A350-900ULRs into service, though it looks like we may see even more service changes.

Singapore Airlines is increasing US service with the A350-900ULR

Currently Singapore Airlines’ US route network includes fifth freedom flights to Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, as well as a nonstop flight between Singapore and San Francisco.

On top of that, Singapore Airlines will restart nonstop flights between Singapore and Newark as of October, and will restart nonstop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles as of early next year at the latest.

Singapore Airlines is also expected to announce a third nonstop flight between Singapore and the US with the A350-900ULR, that should commence at some point next year. That’s because the airline has seven Airbus A350-900ULRs on order, and that leaves with them enough planes to launch three routes (each route requires two planes for one rotation, leaving them with one spare).

My best guess is that this could play out in one of three ways:

  • Chicago seems like the most likely choice, given the distance and that United has a hub there
  • Seattle also doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility, given that Singapore Airlines has a partnership with Alaska, Seattle is such a growing market, and it’s also the closest US gateway to Singapore; however, Singapore Airlines wouldn’t actually have to use the A350-900ULR for this route, as the A350-900 could also operate the flight nonstop
  • As an alternative to the Seattle theory, I could also see them instead having the nonstop Singapore to San Francisco route be operated by an A350-900ULR (just because the premium configuration is a better fit, and presumably it could carry more cargo), and instead start Seattle flights with a regular A350-900

The other most logical destination would be Houston, but that would be several hundred miles longer than the Newark flight, which is already expected to be weight restricted some days in winter. I have a hard time imagining they’d spring for that route, though it can’t completely be ruled out.

Is Singapore Airlines cutting an LAX route?

Currently Singapore Airlines offers two daily flights between Singapore and Los Angeles — one operates via Tokyo Narita, and the other via Seoul Incheon.

It seems highly unlikely that they’ll offer three daily flights when the nonstop flight to Singapore resumes, so the prevailing theory has been that Singapore Airlines will discontinue their flight between Seoul Incheon and Los Angeles (this is a route they only started operating last year, while the route through Tokyo Narita has been around for eons).

It looks like that’s one step closer to being official. Singapore Airlines has stopped selling first class seats for travel on their flight between Los Angeles and Seoul Incheon as of December 1, 2018. However, they haven’t actually zeroed out other fare classes completely:

  • They’re continuing to sell economy seats, though only in the highest fare classes
  • They’re continuing to sell business class seats, though only in the highest fare classes

Given that they’ve just zeroing out first class, it’s possible that they’re just going to change the plane on the route from a 777-300ER to an A350-900. That would represent a capacity reduction of just 11 seats, though, so I doubt that’s the case, especially since they’re zeroing out cheaper fare classes in other cabins as well.

It seems much more likely to me that Singapore Airlines would just axe this route altogether. They’ve stopped selling seats in first class because the nonstop flight won’t have first class, while for other passengers they’d probably just try to accommodate them either on the nonstop, or on the other daily Singapore Airlines flight via Tokyo Narita. For those traveling between Los Angeles and Seoul Incheon, they may just try to rebook them on their partner, Asiana.

Do you think Singapore Airlines will cut their Los Angeles to Seoul Incheon route, and if so, are you surprised? What do you think Singapore Airlines will choose as their fourth nonstop US destination (after EWR, LAX, and SFO)?

Comments

  1. Not surprised to see that route cancelled. Personally, I prefer it since I can fly to Singapore non-stop. As far as the fourth destination, I think ORD makes logical sense.

  2. I think the logical choice would be ORD. That gives them two flights to the West Coast, one to the Midwest, and one to the East Coast.

  3. I feel like they might put the A350-900ULR on Houston. Gives them Southwest coverage, and is a huge United hub.

  4. There’s also been talk of YYZ (Toronto) as the 3rd North American route, since it’s also a Star Alliance hub. But an all-premium plane might be hard to fill, and YYZ lags behind both the other options for passenger numbers.

  5. Wife and I are flying back from a Thailand/Malaysia/Singapore trip last week of October on the SIN/ICN/LAX route in J Class. Hopefully no changes before then!

  6. Why on earth would you conclude (oh wait no, the conclusion was on airliners net) that they’d cut the flight because FIRST class is zeroed out?
    Wouldn’t the logical first thought be that they cut FIRST class aircraft to replace the route with a non-FIRST class aircraft that uses less fuel (i.e. the A350)?

  7. Wouldn’t be surprised. SQ 8 departing from SIN has terrible departure time of around 2:30am, then for SQ 7 again it has terrible arrival time at ICN at around 11pm. Further, both flights are not suited for connecting to/from India, which is a major important geographical area for SQ carrying traffic and connecting with LAX.

  8. If they end SQ7/8, fingers crossed that SIA reintroduces the A380 on SQ11/12. Also hoping that either DL or AA will jump on ICN.

  9. Now I’m thinking if the ICN flights is instead shifted somewhere else, probably Canada, Seattle (if not for the regular A359) or San Diego?

    @Hiro: I thought the primary choice for India – LAX vv are ME3 and formerly used to be major European airlines?

  10. I think the truth of SQ network using the a350ULR will be the following:
    SIN-EWR
    SIN-ORD
    SIN-LAX (Why cant they just use the normal a350 for that route and use that aircraft for a nonstop to IAH or IAD)

    I would be interested to the premium demand between any of their ULR destinations

  11. If SQ removes a 777 from the route and replaces with a 350-ULR then there will be a significant capacity reduction in economy – A380 coming back??

  12. @John – not as much as before, but many still use SQ. They offer really competitve fares to the West Coast and still I see many Indian-ethnic origin people flying the route (particularly SQ12 via NRT) despite having two stops.

  13. @TheRealBabushka – yes, more than a decade ago. 777-200ER service via Amsterdam.

    They’ve also tried LAS via HKG which was also short lived.

    ORD makes the most sense for the ‘third non-stop destination’ but don’t be surprised if it’s some left-field choice like Denver or something.

    @Roberto – Normal A350 doesn’t have the legs to make it to and from LAX. They barely can make SFO work and that is weight restricted sometimes.

  14. @M C – you’re more likely to see DL run an A350 to SIN from SEA than SQ I think. The DL fifth freedom from NRT-SIN won’t last much longer I reckon.

  15. YVR would be nice. It’s partner Air Canada’s hub, closest large city from NA to Asia, and probably doable for the regular a359

  16. @ N — It’s possible, though I wouldn’t count on it. Economy fares across the Pacific are so low nowadays that I’m sure Singapore Airlines would be happy to cut some capacity in the cabin.

  17. @ CS — I’m not sure if you read the whole post or not, but the reason I drew this conclusion/raised this possibility is because they also zeroed out many economy and business class fare classes as of December 1. Given that the A350-900 (the only other plane they’d consider) has roughly the same capacity, there’s no logical reason they would do that if that’s the plane they were going to use instead. I feel pretty confident in my statement here…

  18. While I generally dislike (actually detest) having to connect for transpacs on the west coast, I’ve been willing to do it to take SQ LAX-ICN. However, fares have always been rather cheap and award space abundant, so it seems this wasn’t one of their more profitable routes.

  19. @Lucky, I think you are only half right about LAX-NRT being around fore eons vs. LAX-ICN being brand new.. All SQ did was move SFO-ICN to LAX-ICN. Yes, different cities, but still west coast departures…..and they did this around the same time they reintroduced the west coast to Singapore nonstop flight. Originally that flight was LAX-SIN and of course it is now SFO-SIN.

  20. @ Liam — That’s true, though changing a flight from SF to LA greatly adjusts demand. They’re very different markets, and they essentially had to start from scratch in terms of building demand. While the LA to Korea market is huge, with both Asiana and Korean Air offering 2-3x daily A380 flights, it’s really tough for Singapore Airlines to compete with a single daily flight.

  21. @CR
    IIRC, DL did attempt SEA-SIN with a 77L before, but it didn’t work out for them

    As for transpacific routes from SEA, I’m hoping for SEA-SIN from DL (now they have more fuel efficient a359) or SQ and SEA-TPE from DL or CI, but that’s most likely after SEA’s new international arrivals facility opens.

  22. @chub and @iv, YVR has been obtainable for a while now and it’s not something they want to touch, I think. Every major and minor Asian carrier, with the exception of Asiana serves YVR. We’re talking everything: Cathay (2x daily), Air China, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan, ANA, EVA, JAL, Korean, Philippines Airlines, and even Beijing Capital Airlines, Sichuan, and Xiamen. And that’s in addition to all of the destinations served by AC (PEK, PVG, ICN, HKG, NRT, TPE) on their densified 777s and 787s. There is NO money to be made in that market, fares are bargain basement. Everyone and their mom can get from China to YVR even with just A330s, so you’re also competing against cheap-to-purchase planes. Plus, YVR itself has a massive Japanese and Chinese population – so it makes no sense for them to fly to SIN and then back to China/Japan unless the fares are *even* cheaper. That would amount to a much longer flight. SQ wants to stay away from places like YVR (although YVR is great for the consumer).

    YYZ has a similar, although not quite as intense, issue. Lots of people to fill the seats, but there are already lots of seats to fill and premium demand probably isn’t as high as at ORD. YYZ benefits from, I believe, having a more varied population mix and therefore more varied demands – lots of people from Southeast Asia and India that could benefit from a direct SIN flight.

  23. @chub
    Eva air already operates SEA-TPE, so does DL. SIN will probably not go to Seattle through Tokyo or Taipei because the may Airlines going there. DL also will most likely start SEA-SIN.

  24. How do you know the third route of the A359ULR is gonna be in USA? They never said that. While I think ORD and IAH seems like a huge possibility, YYZ or GRU could be another potential options. GRU is between the range of the A350 and with the help of Avianca Brasil, I think that would be a great option for people in South America who wants to travel to Asia and don’t have an american visa, nowadays the only options are Turkish, Emirates, Qatar, LATAM and Qantas via Middle East and Australia respectively.

  25. Why is there an assumption that the next A350-900-ULR route will be to North America? The original plan when these aircraft were ordered was to fly to SIN-GRU as the third route. The Brazilian economy has slumped since then, but there is still plenty of trade between the two countries, and lots of financial, legal, shipping, and oil people who will all pay a premium for a nonstop — which would be worth much more than having to connect in the Gulf, Europe, or North America and which SQ served well off the Grand Circle from BCN. I think that it is much more likely that they will use these aircraft on routes which require them, rather than on routes which don’t (i.e., SEA).

  26. They may be cancelling LAX-ICN route, which has a very low load factor currently.

    But they will instead reroute to some other US cities. They will not get rid of the precious 5th freedom privilege. They did the exactly same thing with SFO.

    ORD makes sense.

  27. Lucky, speaking of zeroing out first class, can you address the apparent disappearing act of Garuda Indonesia’s First Class as of Oct 27? I see no more First Class to London or Amsterdam and cannot get a straight answer out of them. I know they are not the most informative airline in the world, but maybe you can get the story straight. Thanks

  28. Theyre probably gonna bring back SIN-GRU to connect south america with asia like before. regardless, im not spending 18 hours on a plane hahah

  29. I’m hoping and thinking it will be SEA. It just makes sense that they will fly there as it will open up so many more connecting routes in the US for Singapore Airlines and it will allow a lot of Alaska Airlines passengers to book seamless reservations to Asia and points beyond. It also just doesn’t stand to reason that Singapore would form an alliance with Alaska and then not makes SEA one of their destinations given their increasing aircraft numbers.

  30. I agree ORD makes sense, but why isn’t there more talk about IAD? A partner (United) hub and a world capital. Honestly, I don’t know enough about the aviation industry to speculate on route planning, but IAD sure would be convenient for me. 🙂

  31. @chub – DL served Singapore with 772’s (ER and LR) for a time but it was all via NRT. The flight was “direct” to Singapore from Seattle, just not non-stop.

    SQ will NOT be returning to South America anytime soon and it sure won’t be with any A359 ULR’s if they do. Brazil’s economy isn’t doing well and the flight was uncompetitive back then as it was routed via Barcelona (then TAM started GRU-BCN and that all but put the nail in the coffin for SQ).

    There’s plenty of other one-stop options to South America which SQ would have to compete with which unfortunately don’t make much fiscal sense to try and go up against.

    @Tracy T. – IAD is a possibility given the government traffic, but with Cathay starting IAD-HKG later this year, there would need to be strong O&D demand from IAD to SIN to make the flight work.

  32. @lucky to be sure the writer of the article said that, but Mr. Goh didn’t quite say that, but merely said “seven aircraft is probably more than what is needed for New York and LA.” Its very difficult to conceive of how or why they would send an ultra-premium, ultra long range plane to a standard destination reachable by less capable aircraft with a normal economy section. SQ needs bankers and oilers who pay to fly premium and a mission suited to the ULR, and São Paulo seems to fit that bill perfectly. If not GRU, a second frequency to NYC is the only sensible mission for that aircraft.

  33. The next destination will be BOSTON. For the same reason why Hainan Air found it profitable to offer a premium non-stop flight to PEK – it’s a rich college city and biomedical hub! Not just international undergrads. Rather, plane-loads of visiting scientists, doctors, medical fellows, patients! (who do not want to go up and down planes too many times) to the various world-class hospitals; Visiting professors, postdocs etc to the various top-ranked universities etc. There are more-than-enough travellers who are willing to pay premium fare to fly non-stop to non-East Asia, than the one single Hainan Air BOS -> PEK can take. And massport, which runs Logan Airport, has been courting airlines with lots of inventives. Remember: during thanksgiving, the number 1 “hot spot” that shows up on maps of busiest air traffic is BOSTON.

  34. Oh, and there is CX’s BOS -> HKG nonstop. But still, there is enough traffic for a 3rd nonstop…

  35. I think SQ is in a difficult position. Geographically its hub is not in an ideal location for the present ULR range. Changi has to compete with Bangkok to the west and multiple alternative hubs to the east.

    With that in mind, I think GRU is the route with most long-term potential. I agree that in the short term other routes might do better, particularly for premium traffic, but I think GRU could prove to be a resilient route once established.

  36. I would have considered Toronto but it can’t sustain a premium only configuration and there are too many one stop options.

    Seattle is a Delta fortress and I doubt SQ would venture there although it is a fit for the premium configuration hence can’t be ruled out.

    Houston could be an option as SQ’s Manchester routing is not making any sense. I think the premium demand for the O&G industry will prefer a non-stop and it is optimised for connections to Latin America on United. The payload restrictions may prove to be a challenge.

    I think Chicago seems to be the best fit. For a premium configuration they will need enough O&D traffic as well.

  37. I’m not surprised this is the route they’d axe. There is SO MUCH capacity on that route. Just checking FlightAware between LAX and ICN, I see that on a single day Asiana offers an A380 and Korean Air operates TWO A380’s a day. Asiana also has an additional frequency that seems to alternate between an A350, a 747, or yet another A380.

  38. ICN-LAX is basically dumpster for KE and OZ capacity. KE has 2 daily A380 flights and OZ has 1 380+1 380/350/777…
    KE used to have 3rd daily LAX (either tag on to GRU or just another flight) as well as one via NRT.
    I actually thought the route had some potential – o&d demand is very high and nonstop icn-lax price (ex-icn) was also high by transpacific standards. Probably the flight could not attract enough premium demand though… (last time I checked J class SQ was around $4,500 compared to around $6,000 KE/OZ)

  39. I’m actually booked business LAX to Sin via ICN on Nov 17 returning Dec 3. I asked for first waitlist. Which they did, but only for the departure not the return. I’m enough of a plane geek to almost prefer the opportunity for an A350 over 777-300 first. So I’m hoping that’s the case and not a canceled route all together.

  40. Looks like sq 7/8 is toast. Got an email from sq for my December 13 flight about schedule changes and i can no longer access my itinerary.

  41. I agree with the above poster. I also got an email about a schedule change for my SQ7/8 flights on December 22 and January 6. I really hope they rebook me on another flight. I got my tickets dirt cheap, and can’t afford OZ or KE fares. Right now, they’re $1000 more expensive than what I paid.

  42. Singapore canceled my January ’09 SQ007 flight from LAX-INC-SIN and rescheduled to SQ11. So now I’m flying direct from LAX-SIN which is great! Didn’t even have to go into my reservation to change seats, got my original seat location on 777-300ER, 1F. It looks like there are only 4 First Class seats, can’t wait to checkout the new configuration.

  43. I think you’re flying through Nareta. The direct flights are A-350ULR with only business and premium economy

    I called and the December flught was moved to the 350. The departure times are a lot different too.

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