Singapore Airlines reached a ‘Business Class turning point’ yesterday. As part of a multi-million dollar investment since introducing its first Boeing 787-10 in April 2018, the airline has been moving towards replacing its older angled bed 2009 Regional Business Class (2009 RJ) seats with the very latest all aisle access flat-bed 2018 version.
On 19th August 2019, more of those newer RJ seats departed Changi Airport than the older ones for the first time. This has been made possible as both 9V-SHJ, the latest A350 Regional, and 9V-SCM, the latest 787-10, joined the operating fleet in the last few days allowing more of the carrier’s older A330s and 777s to be retired.
Breakdown by fleet
The 2018 RJ seats actually outnumbered the 2009 RJ version in the active fleet a few days ago. On the afternoon of Thursday last week (15th August) A350 Regional 9V-SHJ entered service to Kuala Lumpur, and later that night to Adelaide.
It meant the total 2018 RJ seat count in the active fleet became 832, versus 830 for the 2009 RJ seats.
There were still more of the older seats flying out of Changi than the newer ones for the last few days though, because the aircraft with the 2009 RJ seats are generally flying shorter routes and therefore flying more flights per day on average than the newer ones.
Now that the latest 787-10 (9V-SCM) is flying, there are 868 2018 RJ seats in the fleet compared to 830 2009 RJ seats, as shown in the following tables.
|2009 RJ Seats (19th Aug 2019)|
|Type||Aircraft Active||Seats per Aircraft||Total Seats|
|2009 RJ TOTAL →||830|
|2018 RJ Seats (19th Aug 2019)|
|Type||Aircraft Active||Seats per Aircraft||Total Seats|
|2018 RJ TOTAL →||868|
Yesterday saw 1,132 of the newer seats departing Changi, compared with 1,114 of the older ones. This does fluctuate a little over the rest of the month due to the nature of the schedule, with close to a 50/50 split.
Once the Malé and Guangzhou routes switch to the 787-10 in a couple of weeks there’s no going back, with the newer seats firmly in charge across the regional network.
Where are these seats flying?
No fewer than 19 routes now feature at least one flight with the 2018 Regional Business Class seats, either on the A350 Regional or 787-10.
The longest route is Brisbane to Singapore (8 hours 20 minutes), with Singapore to Kuala Lumpur the shortest (1 hour).
In September and October 2019, three more routes get the new seats.
A few destinations are (or are about to be) exclusively served by aircraft using the new product. These are:
Our tracker page for this seat type has the full breakdown, showing the flight numbers you’ll need to choose and also including which routes are coming next. It’s continually updated so be sure to bookmark and check back to find out when your favourite city is joining the list.
One route is no more
The only route to receive the new seats then subsequently lose them was Tokyo Narita, formerly operated using the Boeing 787-10 for nearly a year from 18th May 2018 until 26th April 2019.
The biggest differences between the old 2009 seat and the new 2018 one are direct aisle access (no more climbing over your neighbour to reach the aisle from the window seats) and a fully flat bed (no more waking up in the footwell wondering how you got there).
Storage is also improved in the new seats, a much newer in-flight entertainment system with an 18″ HD screen is offered, and Wi-Fi is available. This was recently hiked to a 100MB free allowance for Business Class and PPS Club passengers on all A350 Regionals and 787-10s.
Here’s how the older and newer seats compare in more detail.
Regional Business Class Comparison
|2009 RJ||2018 RJ|
|Width||20″||20″ (armrests raised)
26″ (armrests lowered)
|Screen Size||15.4″ SD||18″ HD|
|Power Source||1 UNI + 2 USB Sockets||1 UNI + 2 USB Sockets|
(first 100MB free for Business Class passengers)
We have two comprehensive reviews from our firsthand experience of the 2018 Regional Business Class; one of the window seats and a shorter (but still detailed) look at the ‘couple’ middle pairs.
Those middle pairs are likely the ones you’ll be wanting to choose when travelling with a partner or friend, since the other seats in this cabin layout are relatively isolated from one another. There are five middle pair opportunities on the 787-10 and six on the A350 regional.
As you’ll see from the second review, there’s more access space, foot space and bed length in the bulkhead seats too. There’s a single row opportunity for those on the 787-10 (row 11), but two options on the A350 Regional (rows 11 and 19).
Hopefully our reviews will help you learn what to expect from these new products if you haven’t flown them before.
How hard are the new planes working?
Based on the ‘snapshot’ from yesterday the 787-10 and A350 Regional fleets worked an average daily total per aircraft of:
- 787-10: 12.0 hours
- A350 R: 13.4 hours
That will equalise slightly as the Malé and Guangzhou routes switch to the 787 from 1st September.
The 787-10 fleet still flies more of the shorter routes than the A350 Regional. Again based on yesterday, the average scheduled duration per flight by fleet type was:
- 787-10: 4.6 hours
- A350 R: 5.2 hours
When can we wave farewell to 2009 RJ?
No time soon unfortunately. Even though remaining A330s and 777-200s are continuing to leave the fleet (a further 13 are on their way out in the next 7 months alone), Singapore Airlines still has no formal announced plan to replace its five Boeing 777-300 (non-ER) aircraft.
Some sources have told us the 777-300s are staying until mid-2021.
All of these feature 50 of the older 2009 Regional Business Class seats, and predominantly fly on the Jakarta and Manila routes. None of them will be refitted with the latest cabin products, so we will have to wait for those last few planes to be retired before we can finally say goodbye to these older seats.
The good news is the 777-300s are generally easy to avoid, provided you are not a regular on the Jakarta / Manila routes.
Whenever an airline announces a new Business Class seat type, customers usually bemoan the sheer time it takes to complete the retrofit. This one has been no exception, but in fact rolling out well over 800 seats in 15 months, now fitted to the lion’s share of the regional fleet, is quite an impressive retrofit rate.
Remember seat manufacturers like Stelia can realistically only produce three or four of these seats per day, and they are now also delivering the same model for Turkish Airlines.
With more new A350 Regional and 787-10 deliveries during this financial year, replacing aircraft with the older product, nearly 70% of the Business Class seats in the regional fleet (1,140 of 1,668) should be the 2018 version by the end of March 2020.
The good news, provided you are indeed a fan of this new version, is that there are becoming fewer and fewer flights and routes to be concerned about in order to avoid the old 2009 version. As always our Business Class Seats by Route page is bang up to date with the latest cabin fit by flight number on the SIA network.
(Cover Photo: Stelia Aerospace)