News Singapore Airlines

A year without Suites? SIA extends First Class cull to April 2021

Singapore Airlines has extended its removal of First Class and Suites cabins from its inventory until April 2021, meaning the real possibility of a year without Suites

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.

‘Old Suites’ on the Airbus A380. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

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 As we’ve previously noticed however, SIA has withdrawn all First Class and Suites inventory (F/A class) for a much longer period.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.

The last passengers to experience the 2017 Suites cabin landed into Changi on 31st March 2020. They may have been the last for at least a year. (Photo: The Points Guy)

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.

Aircraft Seat Type
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.

City A380 777-300 777-300ER
Auckland  
Amsterdam    
Beijing    
Brunei    
Delhi    
Dubai    
Frankfurt  
Hong Kong  
Jakarta  
London  
Los Angeles    
Manila    
Melbourne    
Mumbai    
New York    
San Francisco    
Seoul    
Shanghai  
Sydney  
Tokyo  
Zurich    

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.

2013 First Class on the Boeing 777-300ER, a firm favourite of ours. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

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.

SIA’s T3 lounges at Changi Airport, including The Private Room, are due for a complete revamp by mid-2021. (Image: Singapore Airlines)

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.

Suites AKL
Our Suites booking in late October still looks like this, even though we know it won’t be an A380v3 (if the flight even goes ahead)

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

Airbus A350 routes have the 2013 Business Class seats, while Airbus A350 Regionals and Boeing 787-10s have the 2018 Regional Business seats.

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.

2013 J Business A350 2 (MM) 2013 J
11A narrow 2018 RJ
SIA Business Class Seat Types
(Aug-Oct 2020)
City Aircraft Seats
Adelaide A350 Regional 2018 RJ
Amsterdam A350 2013 J
Auckland A350 2013 J
Bangkok 787-10 2018 RJ
Barcelona A350 2013 J
Brisbane A350 2013 J
Christchurch A350 2013 J
Copenhagen A350 2013 J
Frankfurt A350 2013 J
Hanoi A350 Regional 2018 RJ
Ho Chi Minh 787-10 2018 RJ
Hong Kong 787-10 2018 RJ
Istanbul A350 2013 J
Jakarta A350 2013 J
Kuala Lumpur A350 2013 J
London A350 2013 J
Los Angeles A350 2013 J
Manila A350 Regional 2018 RJ
Melbourne A350 2013 J
Milan A350 2013 J
Osaka A350 Regional 2018 RJ
Paris A350 2013 J
Perth 787-10 2018 RJ
Shanghai 787-10 2018 RJ
Seoul 787-10 2018 RJ
Sydney A350 2013 J
Taipei 787-10 2018 RJ
Tokyo 787-10 2018 RJ
Zurich A350 2013 J

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).

14K Overhead
Singapore Airlines’ super-wide 2006 Business Class seats won’t be seen again until older Airbus A380s return to service. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

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.

Summary

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.

2013 J A350 (MM)
The best seat in the house for many Singapore Airlines routes looks set to be the 2013 Business Class, at least for the rest of 2020 and probably well into 2021. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The latest Singapore Airlines schedules for the 1st August to 24th October 2020 period are available here.

(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)

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