Earlier this week we reported how Singapore Airlines had removed all First Class and Suites inventory from its flight schedules until 1st February 2021, in a sure sign the carrier had no plans to reintroduce its larger fuel-thirsty Airbus A380s and Boeing 777-300ERs back into passenger service for the foreseeable future.
Only a few days later the airline has once again extended this block on its flagship cabins, with availability for cash or KrisFlyer redemptions now wiped until 1st April 2021, over eight months from now.
This withdrawal, which almost inevitably means SIA will continue to deploy only its Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft on passenger routes well into next year, also means only two Business Class seat types will be in service for the time being – the new 2018 regional product and the popular 2013 long-haul one.
No First Class until April 2021
Singapore Airlines is definitely not flying any of its First Class or Suites products in the current published schedule to 24th October 2020. As we’ve previously noticed however, SIA has withdrawn all First Class and Suites inventory (F/A class) for a much longer period.
Initially this was through to 1st December 2020, then earlier this week it was extended to 1st February 2021. This has now been stretched out until 1st April 2021, over eight months from now.
The restriction applies equally to redemption availability and cash fares.
The change is regardless of aircraft type currently programmed, and reflects on both the airline’s website and GDS systems like ExpertFlyer.
In essence – First Class is now not available on any route until 1st April 2021 at the earliest.
It’s a year without Suites Class
Assuming the airline does not restore First Class or Suites operation earlier than planned, which seems unlikely to be necessary given the airline’s public statement that it forecasts no more than 50% of usual capacity by the end of March 2021, this will mean over a year without any Suites cabins being available.
The older Suites on Airbus A380 Version 1 and Version 2 aircraft last flew passengers on 20th March 2020, landing into Changi from London as SQ321 at 6.54pm.
The newer Suites on Airbus A380 Version 3 aircraft last flew passengers on 31st March 2020, landing into Changi from London as SQ317 at 6.59am.
Unknowingly, those passengers were the last to experience these cabin products for what now looks to be at least a year.
Which aircraft and routes had First / Suites?
First Class or Suites cabins are fitted on the following Singapore Airlines aircraft, which make up around 40% of the fleet.
|Airbus A380 v1/v2||2006 Suites|
|Airbus A380 v3||2017 Suites|
|Boeing 777-300||2006 First|
|Boeing 777-300ER||2013 First|
These were originally planned to be flown to and from, the following 21 cities on the SIA network, based on the northern winter 2020 / 2021 schedule.
Seven of the carrier’s 19 Airbus A380 aircraft are currently parked in long-term storage at Alice Springs airport in Australia.
On the Boeing 777-300ER this included the airline’s most exclusive cabin, a single row of just 4 seats, each of which converted into the most spacious bed SIA offered, for a single passenger at least.
See our comprehensive review of this product from San Francisco to Singapore via Hong Kong.
What does it mean for lounges?
With less than 50% of normal passenger levels expected by March 2021 and seemingly no First or Suites Class passengers passing through each day, there seems little incentive for Singapore Airlines to reopen its SilverKris First Class lounge or The Private Room in Changi’s Terminal 3.
These facilities are all due for a S$50 million makeover between now and mid-2021, so it’s possible that Singapore Airlines may choose to re-order the revamp schedule slightly and could now take the opportunity to complete work on these two lounges while they are closed anyway.
What if you have a booking?
If like us you have a First Class or Suites booking on or after 25th October 2020, there’s no apparent change yet. Around 95%+ of usual aircraft types are still loaded into the schedule as normal (e.g. our Auckland – Singapore flight in the last week of October is still programmed as an A380v3, though the likelihood of that is about as close to 0% as you can get).
Seat maps also reflect the originally planned aircraft type, so logging on to your booking will only show what you previously expected.
Singapore Airlines will only notify you of a change once the aircraft type is updated in the system.
This usually happens around the time the monthly schedule is released (sometimes a day or two after).
Until then, sit tight with the booking you have, however if you are travelling on or before 30th November 2020 you can refund your ticket or KrisFlyer redemption for no fee under the airline’s Travel Waiver policy.
The travel waiver is almost certain to be extended over the coming months, so don’t rush to cancel your First Class or Suites booking beyond 30th November 2020 at this stage, since a fee would then be payable.
What it means for Business Class
That means we’re down to two Business Class cabin types until at least 24th October 2020, and in all likelihood well into 2021.
Here’s which aircraft types (and therefore Business Class cabin types) are being flown on SIA’s passenger routes between now and the end of the northern winter season in late October 2020.
|SIA Business Class Seat Types
|Adelaide||A350 Regional||2018 RJ|
|Hanoi||A350 Regional||2018 RJ|
|Ho Chi Minh||787-10||2018 RJ|
|Hong Kong||787-10||2018 RJ|
|Kuala Lumpur||A350||2013 J|
|Los Angeles||A350||2013 J|
|Manila||A350 Regional||2018 RJ|
|Osaka||A350 Regional||2018 RJ|
It’s farewell, at least temporarily, to the 2009 Regional Business Class seats and the 2006 Business Class seats.
There are sadly also no new 2017 Business Class seats in service for the time being, with the Airbus A380s all grounded.
It will take the return of older A380s to see the 2006 Business Class seats make an appearance again (the Boeing 777-200ERs with 2006 J seats have now been retired).
Meanwhile the 2009 Regional Business Class isn’t likely to see the light of day on the remaining Airbus A330s, an aircraft type confirmed to be leaving the fleet over the next 12 months, however they may reappear on Boeing 777-300s (non-ERs) if SIA reintroduces those (owned) aircraft to passenger service.
Having said that the 777-300 fleet has already dwindled to four recently, with only one of those occasionally active on cargo-only flights, so we may have unknowingly said goodbye to the older Regional Business Class product already.
More bad news for those looking forward to a First Class or Suites experience in 2021, as it now looks as though there will be no such opportunities for at least the first quarter of next year.
This is confirmed in GDS schedules and at singaporeair.com, with exclusion of the First Class and Suites cabins from sale and award inventory through 31st March 2021.
We expect as services are slowly reinstated on many routes including those like San Francisco and Los Angeles via Tokyo, three-class Airbus A350s will be used to better match capacity to demand. These aircraft also have the benefit of being more fuel efficient than the older ones with First Class and Suites cabins installed.
Of course, there’s nothing to stop SIA re-adding this availability later if a sudden upturn occurs, however this seems unlikely given the passenger demand outlook, especially for the Airbus A380s which are ill-suited to cargo-only operations.
One positive aside is that those flying Business Class should have the new 2018 Regional product on shorter flights to destinations including Adelaide, Hong Kong and Shanghai, while some other short-haul and all long-haul routes will have the popular 2013 long-haul Business Class seats for some time to come.
The latest Singapore Airlines schedules for the 1st August to 24th October 2020 period are available here.
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)