Singapore Airlines announced today that it will replace SilkAir on the recently launched Singapore to Busan route, with the airline’s Airbus A330-300s taking over from smaller Boeing 737s, in turn boosting capacity to the South Korean city by 76%.
The swap will take place at the start of the northern winter season on 28th October 2019.
The current SilkAir schedule to and from Busan is as follows.
|Flight||From / To||Aircraft||Days|
|MI876||SIN2335 – PUS0700*||738||1·3·56·|
|MI875||PUS0800 – SIN1400||738||·2·····|
|MI875||PUS0830 – SIN1400||738||···4·67|
* Next day
From 28th October 2019 Singapore Airlines takes over on the route, with slight timing adjustment and A330 operation.
From 28th October 2019
|Flight||From / To||Aircraft||Days|
|SQ616||SIN2310 – PUS0635*||333||1···56·|
|SQ616||SIN2310 – PUS0630*||333||··3····|
|SQ615||PUS0800 – SIN1325||333||·2·4·6·|
|SQ615||PUS0810 – SIN1325||333||······7|
* Next day
The new flight number and aircraft type have been confirmed by Singapore Airlines, but at the time of writing the booking engine and GDS timetables had yet to be updated.
The shift from the Boeing 737 to the Airbus A330 on the Busan route increases capacity from 12 Business Class and 150 Economy Class seats to 30 Business Class and 255 Economy Class seats, an overall 76% hike in weekly capacity on the city pair.
Business Class gets the biggest boost, with an additional 18 seats on each flight representing a 150% increase over the current SilkAir planes.
As most of our readers will already know, the A330 means the older 2009 Regional Business Class product in a 2-2-2 configuration, with seats that convert into angled beds.
While these seats are by no means the ‘latest and greatest’ the airline has to offer, they are a significant improvement on SilkAir’s recliner Business Class option currently serving the route.
In case you haven’t flown it before, we have a full review of the 2009 Regional Business Class on the A330 from late 2017 on a Bangkok to Singapore flight.
The following redemption rates apply for KrisFlyer members wishing to use their miles to fly to or from Busan.
Singapore ⇄ Busan
Worth noting that you shouldn’t be considering an Economy Advantage redemption here, without checking whether a Business Saver is available at only 2,000 miles more!
We’d say this one will almost certainly be appearing on Spontaneous Escapes from October 2019 onwards (with offers for November 2019), given the large capacity increase.
If you already hold or intend to book a firm ticket in an eligible Economy booking class, here’s how many miles it will then cost you to upgrade to Business Class, assuming saver upgrade award availability.
|Upgrade using KrisFlyer miles
Singapore ⇄ Busan
|Upgrading to →||
|Existing booking ↓|
(Class: M, H, W)
(Class: Y, B, E)
As usual, upgrading with miles is not a great deal unless your company is paying for an Economy Flexi fare.
The 737 MAX
When the Busan route was first launched it was supposed to be flown exclusively by SilkAir’s new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, however the grounding of the type since March 2019 has meant the Boeing 737-800 was used instead.
With flight times of up to 6 hours 17 minutes recorded on this route since it began, that’s pushing the range of the aircraft and therefore it is likely to be operating with a “load limit”, a sort of artificial cap on the number of seats that can be sold in order to ensure the non-stop range of the aircraft.
That’s undesirable, especially if the route is proving popular, but no such limits will be imposed on an A330 flying this service. It also assists SilkAir by returning some 737 flying capacity to their network for the winter season, while the recertification delays for the 737 MAX aircraft continue to drag on.
Indeed as we reported earlier today, the airline will be moving its six Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into storage over the next few weeks, with return to service before early 2020 looking increasingly unlikely.
Aren’t the A330s leaving?
Yes, that fleet will have dwindled to around eight aircraft by the end of the northern winter season in March 2020, with the aircraft being progressively replaced by brand new Airbus A350 Regional and Boeing 787-10 models.
By the end of 2020 we expect all the A330s to be gone, or at least only a very small fleet to remain.
Assuming the route performance is still strong, SIA could use one of the newer wide body aircraft (A350/787) to operate the Busan route in due course, or return it to a 737 MAX (perhaps on a daily basis) depending on requirements.
It is unusual to increase capacity on a route by using a larger aircraft before increasing the frequency (e.g. to daily), so the move does suggest SilkAir are simply in need of the capacity for other routes, given their current fleet constraints.
Nevertheless the airline is sticking to the “high demand” line, with Senior Vice President Marketing Planning Mr Tan Kai Ping today stating:
“Demand for SilkAir’s Busan flights since the launch of the route on 1 May 2019 has been very encouraging, and it has proven to be another popular gateway into South Korea, complementing SIA’s services to Seoul. We look forward to helping further grow travel to and from South Korea with the increase in capacity that SIA’s larger aircraft can provide on the route”
All of SilkAir’s routes will eventually be operated by Singapore Airlines, either with narrow body or wide body aircraft, on completion of a merger of the regional division into the mainline operation likely taking place by 2021/22.
Busan is one of SilkAir’s longest routes, with flight times of around 6.5 hours, so the upgauging to a more comfortable wide body aircraft will likely be welcomed by passengers.
Business Class customers will benefit most, with an angle-flat bed allowing much better rest especially on the overnight Singapore – Busan sector.
Star Alliance Gold passengers flying in Economy Class will also benefit from lounge access when flying on the service, once SIA takes over. Those with miles and points balances in other Star Alliance frequent flyer programmes should also be able to redeem on the route, though on the Phuket service where SIA is temporarily replacing SilkAir, this has not transpired.
We expect generous award availability, especially in Business Class which has a 150% capacity increase, once the new flight numbers are loaded into the system.
(Cover Photo: Kentaro Iemoto)