A second batch of Singapore Airlines aircraft were flown to long-term storage last month, including four of the carrier’s flagship Airbus A380s. With only a skeleton passenger and cargo flying network, we revisit our list of active and stored aircraft in the fleet during May 2020.
Less than half the fleet is now flying, with the airline keeping 59 Airbus A350s, Boeing 777-300 / -300ERs and Boeing 787-10s active over the last few weeks, as five SIA aircraft types remain firmly out of service, including all Airbus A330s and Airbus A380s.
Meanwhile in a trading update on 8th May 2020, the airline confirmed that it is in negotiations with Airbus and Boeing to ‘adjust’ its forthcoming aircraft deliveries.
Here are the Singapore Airlines passenger fleet totals at 8th May 2020.
|In maintenance / stored:||-68|
The official registered aircraft data in combination with analysis of actual flight movements over the last few weeks allows us to determine the actual ‘in service’ fleet (available to the airline) of 127 planes at 8th May 2020, 59 of which are currently active.
Click here to see the official CAAS list of registered aircraft in Singapore at 30th April 2020.
Singapore Airlines Fleet at 8th May 2020
This table shows the Singapore Airlines fleet including how many of each aircraft type are legally registered (‘Registered’), available to the airline (‘In Service’) and currently operating revenue passenger or cargo flights (‘Active’).
Correct at 8th May 2020.
Five aircraft types in the Singapore Airlines fleet remain in storage this month and are not currently being flown at all:
- Airbus A330
- Airbus A350 ULR
- Airbus A380
- Boeing 777-200
- Boeing 777-200ER
Differences between registered and in service aircraft in the table above:
No longer in service (but still legally registered)
- A330-300 9V-SSB has already stopped flying for return to lessor. Onward operator is HiFly Malta (with registration 9H-HFF), though it currently remains registered to SIA.
- 777-200 9V-SQJ has already stopped flying for disposal.
- 777-200 9V-SRM has already stopped flying for disposal.
Changes since our last update
Since April 2020 (and since the CAAS database at 31st March 2020) the following changes have been recorded:
- 9V-SKT was relocated to long-term storage in Alice Springs on 26th April 2020.
- 9V-SKW was relocated to long-term storage in Alice Springs on 26th April 2020.
- 9V-SKY was relocated to long-term storage in Alice Springs on 26th April 2020.
- 9V-SKZ was relocated to long-term storage in Alice Springs on 26th April 2020.
More aircraft fly to Alice Springs
The big news this month was the relocation of four Singapore Airlines Airbus A380s to long-term aircraft storage at APAS in Alice Springs, Australia.
These were the largest aircraft ever to land at the remote Northern Territories airport, and joined three of the airline’s Boeing 777-200ERs flown there in early April.
Here’s a video from Chris Tangey, who filmed the final aircraft (9V-SKZ) landing that morning.
It certainly kicks up a lot of dust (imagine what the first one was like!).
Two more Scoot Airbus A320s also flew to Alice Springs on the same day, joining another pair previously relocated, while two NokScoot Boeing 777-200ERs joined separately on 29th April 2020. In total the stored fleet at Alice Springs across the SIA and Scoot brands now comprises 19 aircraft:
|SIA and Scoot-branded aircraft
stored in Alice Springs
|Boeing 737 MAX 8||6|
The NokScoot Boeing 777-200ERs were former Singapore Airlines aircraft:
- HS-XBB (formerly 9V-SRG with SIA then 9V-OTF with Scoot)
- HS-XBC (formerly 9V-SRH with SIA)
We expect that additional SIA aircraft may be set to fly to Alice Springs this month, potentially the other three Airbus A380 Version 3 models (9V-SKS, -SKU and -SKV). There seems to be the right amount of space already set aside for three additional A380s.
It would be logical for Singapore Airlines to preserve all its A380 Version 3 aircraft in Alice Springs, as these are likely the ones they will wish to use long-term when demand recovers.
Asia Pacific Aircraft Storage in Alice Springs is expanding its capacity to house at least 70 aircraft.
The flying network
The significant reduction in services due to the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in Singapore Airlines operating a skeleton passenger service to only 10 Asia-Pacific cities, plus a handful of US and Europe connections.
Since our last monthly fleet update, this limited passenger flying programme has been extended to at least 30th June 2020.
Fun fact: For every passenger flight operated by Singapore Airlines at the moment there are two additional cargo-only flights using passenger aircraft, covering a much wider network of cities.
Many of you will no doubt recall Singapore Airlines’ announcement that it was slashing its capacity by 96% and in turn only keeping 9 of its SIA and SilkAir aircraft flying in the month of April 2020.
Why then are 59 Singapore Airlines passenger aircraft still flying?
Take an A350 Regional (9V-SHF) for example. This aircraft, like others in the A350 Regional fleet, would typically fly around 18 flights per week. In the last three weeks however it has only flown:
- Mon 20th April: SQ910/917 Manila (pax)
- Sat 25th April: SQ600/609 Seoul (pax)
- Sun 3rd May: SQ802/807 Beijing (cargo)
- Wed 6th May: SQ802/807 Beijing (cargo)
That’s 8 flights in 3 weeks, when the aircraft would typically have flown over 50 flights in the same time period. As you can see, the aircraft is flying around once every 7 days.
This does not require it to undergo costly storage preparations – it’s relatively normal for an aircraft not to fly for a week and only a few inexpensive precautions need to be taken if the operator chooses, like some instrument sensor covers which are easily installed and removed.
Effectively, it’s cheaper to fly six A350 Regionals once a week in this parked or ‘active storage’ mode than it is to fly one A350 Regional every day and put the other five in full storage.
It also provides additional operational flexibility to keep just under half the fleet in this state of readiness. Aircraft still suffer technical problems even if they only fly once a week, so you have plenty of others at your disposal to use if and when that happens.
It also means SIA can ramp up the flying programme quickly as demand recovers in the coming months; around half its fleet is in operationally-ready state at Changi without the need for time consuming (and again, costly) ‘de-storage’ maintenance actions.
Fun fact: Storing an Airbus A330 takes a team of engineers 400 man hours, with tasks ranging from taping up the windows, packing the landing gears and engines and covering the internal furnishings. (Source: Brussels Airlines)
The following video from Brussels Airlines is fascinating from an AvGeek standpoint and illustrates the sort of procedures that need to be followed.
It’s worth noting that, according to our sources, the vast majority of scheduled time-limited maintenance tasks must continue on all aircraft until they are officially ‘stored’ in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.
Problem is, some newer aircraft (like the Airbus A350) might not even have these instructions published because long-term storage was not perceived as a possibility this early in their life cycle.
The storage report: May 2020
Here’s how the fleet activity looked on 7th May 2020, which gives us an indication of which aircraft are stored (last flew > 14 days ago), compared to those in ‘active storage’ (last flew more recently).
|Last flew > 60 days ago|
|Last flew 14-59 days ago|
|Last flew < 14 days ago|
‘Last flew’ dates relate to the aircraft’s last revenue passenger or cargo-only flight.
All the airline’s available A330 aircraft remain stored in Singapore. None have flown for well over a month.
|Aircraft||Location||Last flew||Days ago|
|9V-STC||SIN||2 Apr 20||35|
|9V-SSC||SIN||27 Mar 20||41|
|9V-SSD||SIN||31 Mar 20||37|
|9V-SSE||SIN||27 Mar 20||41|