News Scoot Singapore Airlines

Coronavirus: SIA flies four of its newest A380s into long-term storage

Only three SIA Airbus A380s with the new 2017 cabin products remain at Changi, as the others are flown to long-term storage

A380v3 96K (Agent Wolf SS)

In a slight surprise, Singapore Airlines has prioritised sending its newest Airbus A380 aircraft into long-term storage in Australia this weekend, bidding farewell to over half its ‘Version 3’ superjumbo sub-fleet for at least the next few months, including a refitted aircraft that had only been back flying for 10 weeks with the latest cabin products.

This was after confirmation on Friday this week that four of the Airbus A380s would be making the journey to Alice Springs, joining three of the airline’s Boeing 777-200ERs that flew there three weeks ago.

Details

The aircraft departed at approximate 1-hour intervals this morning, as follows:

  • SQ8865 (Dep 01:43 / Arr 08:20)
  • SQ8866 (Dep 03:03 / Arr 09:39)
  • SQ8867 (Dep 03:59 / Arr 10:34)
  • SQ8868 (Dep 05:08 / Arr 11:41)
SQ 4 A380 Alice
All four A380s on their way to Alice Springs, their first flights in around four weeks. (Image: flightradar24)

This is an expensive exercise, likely costing upwards of S$100,000 per A380 for the operating cost of the 5-hour flight alone (around half of that is fuel), plus the same cost to bear again when the aircraft are then returned to Singapore in future.

That means it’s not done lightly or just for a few weeks – it’s a long-term plan for at least a few months.

Here are the four A380 aircraft which flew to Alice Springs last night, including details of their most recent passenger flight.

Registration Delivered Last flew
Singapore_Airlines 9V-SKT 6 Sep 2012
(age 8.2 yrs)
18 Mar 2020
SQ232
SYD-SIN
Note: SKT received 2017 cabin products and re-entered service on 5 Jan 2020 with the latest seats.
Singapore_Airlines 9V-SKW 12 Apr 2018
(age 2.6 yrs)
26 Mar 2020
SQ317
LHR-SIN
Singapore_Airlines 9V-SKY 15 Jun 2018
(age 2.3 yrs)
27 Mar 2020
SQ317
LHR-SIN
Singapore_Airlines 9V-SKZ 27 Jul 2018
(age 2.2 yrs)
30 Mar 2020
SQ317
LHR-SIN

Note that aircraft age is based on first pre-delivery test flight date.

9V-SKT only flew with the new 2017 cabin products for around 10 weeks, so its internal fittings should be in mint condition.

Two Scoot A320s also flew down to Alice Springs last night, joining a pair that made the same trip three weeks ago.

Registration Delivered Last flew
Scoot 9V-TAN 20 Feb 2010
(age 10.2 yrs)
19 Mar 2020
TR631
HDY-SIN
Scoot 9V-TAQ 10 Nov 2010
(age 9.5 yrs)
15 Mar 2020
TR541
CJB-SIN

Note that aircraft age is based on first pre-delivery test flight date.

These aircraft had not flown for around five weeks and were being temporarily stored at Changi.

SQ212 is picking up the crew

As with last time a batch of SIA aircraft was relocated to Alice Springs, Singapore Airlines is diverting today’s Sydney – Singapore SQ212 flight (a cargo-only service) via the airport, presumably to collect the 12 pilots and deliver them back home this evening.

SQ Star 77W (N509FZ)
9V-SWM was diverted via Alice Springs on its way from Sydney to Singapore today. (Photo: N509FZ)

SQ212 26-4

At the time of writing the aircraft, Boeing 777-300ER 9V-SWM, was just leaving the Australian coastline en-route from Alice Springs to Singapore, and is due to land just after 5pm local time.

SIA’s long-term stored aircraft

Here’s a summary of the 17 Singapore Airlines Group aircraft in long-term storage at Alice Springs as of 26th April 2020.

Singapore_Airlines Singapore Airlines
Airbus A380
9V-SKT
9V-SKW
9V-SKY
9V-SKZ
Boeing 777-200ER
9V-SVB 9V-SVC 9V-SVE
Total: 7
SilkAir SilkAir
Boeing 737 MAX 8
9V-MBA 9V-MBB 9V-MBC 9V-MBD
9V-MBE 9V-MBF
Total: 6
Scoot Scoot
Airbus A320
9V-TAN 9V-TAQ 9V-TAU
9V-TAV
Total: 4

These aircraft are now under the care of Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage, and will benefit from the dry desert climate, essential for preserving aircraft in long-term storage.

Scoot A320 2
Four Scoot A320s are now stored in Alice Springs. (Photo: Scoot)

We have a full list of which other Singapore Airlines aircraft remain active or in short-term storage at Changi Airport as of 18th April 2020 in our regular monthly fleet update here, which showed that 61 aircraft are effectively in temporary storage mode.

More could follow

Singapore Airlines clearly sees a long-term future for its Airbus A380 Version 3 aircraft, especially after the expense they have gone to installing the latest Suites and Business Class seats.

2017 J Side (Singapore Airlines)
The 2017 Business Class seat remains unique to SIA’s A380 Version 3 aircraft. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

9V-SKN should emerge from its refit with these cabin products soon (it was originally required to support daily flights to Paris with the 2017 seats from 1st July 2020), which will increase the A380 Version 3 sub-fleet to eight aircraft in total.

One downside of these aircraft however is their capacity – at 471 seats they are the largest in the fleet and so probably the last aircraft the airline wants to deploy for the remainder of 2020, with travel demand likely taking a prolonged downturn.

SIA will therefore be concerned about the long-term condition of the remaining four Version 3 aircraft – SKS, SKU, SKV and soon SKN, assuming they don’t start reusing them soon.

That potentially paves the way for those four to eventually join the current batch in Alice Springs, or at an alternative facility.

Summary

Singapore Airlines seems to have two different strategies for using the Alice Springs storage facility.

Storing three 15-year-old Boeing 777-200ERs there, aircraft never likely to be used again by the airline, seems more like a retirement plan for those assets.

On the other hand storing nearly new (or freshly refitted) Airbus A380s and brand new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft there seems more like a ‘best preservation’ solution, so that these aircraft remain in good condition and can return to the fleet with minimal maintenance work.

A388 9V-SKT (Dillon Chong)
9V-SKT returning to Changi from its first flight with the 2017 cabin products on 6th January 2020. The aircraft is now stored in Alice Springs. (Photo: Dillon Chong)

It’s bad news of course for fans of the latest 2017 Suites and Business Class seats, which will now at best become a rarity for at least six months or so. At worst if other Version 3 aircraft follow these four into storage, we may have waved goodbye to the newest cabin products last month for quite some time, without knowing it.

On the positive side, efforts to preserve these new and refitted aircraft mean they should be back in the fleet at some point in the future.

What it means for the airline’s older A380s still at Changi, including four leased aircraft, remains to be seen.

(Cover Photo: Agent Wolf / Shutterstock)

5 comments

  1. Hi Andrew,
    Just curious! Why can’t SIA leave those aircraft in Changi Airport but to fly them to Alice Spring? Is it space constraint or weather? Thanks!

  2. Makes sense, older A380s have probably lower resale value (in particular the first few planes off the line due to some non standard config). Those are probably worth more as scrap whereas there is life left in these newer jets for a new operator after this.

    Question is whether will demand return to earlier levels to offload these fuel guzzlers (funny how the 747s were considered guzzlers when A380s were new)

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