There’s been plenty of negative news lately when it comes to the future shape and size of Singapore Airlines after COVID-19, including a recent fleet review that concluded 26 of the group’s aircraft were surplus to requirements and would not be rejoining the fleet.
That included seven of the carrier’s older Airbus A380s, reducing the fleet from 19 to 12 aircraft as the carrier rebuilds its operation over the coming years.
In some rare positive news, the airline has confirmed to Mainly Miles that all 12 of its future Airbus A380 fleet will boast the new 2017 cabin products, with the fourth refit currently underway and three more in the pipeline.
That means the airline will ultimately boast a consistent product offering on its superjumbos, though it may mean we have seen the last of the older Suites and Business Class products, which now look unlikely to re-enter service.
It will also mean SIA coming good on its original promise to refit all its A380s with the new seats, a programme originally proposed for completion on 14 older aircraft by the end of 2020.
Eight aircraft have been refitted
There had been a report that nine aircraft were already sporting the new seats, however Singapore Airlines confirmed to Mainly Miles that the current total remains at eight.
“As of 13 November 2020, SIA has eight A380s that have been installed with the new cabin products.”SIA Spokesperson
These are the eight we already knew about, comprising five aircraft newly delivered in 2017/18 and three refitted aircraft – 9V-SKT, -SKS and -SKN.
Indeed we toured (and dined on) 9V-SKN, the most recently refitted jet, during the Restaurant A380 @Changi event in late October 2020, with a brand new and practically flawless cabin.
Here’s a list of the current A380 fleet.
ASP – Alice Springs Airport
SIN – Singapore Changi Airport
9V-SKM is next
Singapore Airlines confirmed to us that 9V-SKM, a 10-year-old aircraft, is currently undergoing its cabin refit with the 2017 products at Changi.
“The ninth aircraft (9V-SKM) [will be] completing its cabin retrofit soon.”SIA Spokesperson
9V-SKM last flew on 22nd March 2020. We don’t know when its retrofit work started, however it’s probably reasonable to assume it was after 9V-SKN’s refit was completed in late June 2020.
Refits seem to take around eight months, so it could be into 2021 before we see SKM take its post-maintenance test flight in the new configuration, not that it will be returning to service any time soon given the current market outlook.
As we highlighted earlier this week, Singapore Airlines has removed Suites and First Class cabin availability for revenue and award booking until 31st October 2021, making it unlikely we will see the A380s return to service over the next year or so.
All 12 aircraft will get the new seats
The most exciting part of the news is not only that there will be nine aircraft with the new cabin products installed, but that the entire future A380 fleet will eventually be kitted out with the latest fit.
“We plan to retrofit an additional three more aircraft following 9V-SKM.”SIA Spokesperson
You read it here first – that means all 12 of SIA’s Airbus A380 aircraft returning to service after COVID-19 will have the latest cabin products installed eventually, based on the current plan.
This is likely because the seat products themselves, which make up over half the cost of each retrofit, had already been ordered and potentially reached a late stage of manufacture, meaning SIA had to pay for them anyway.
- Suites: US$500k – US$1m
- Business: US$150k – US$300k
- Premium: US$15k
- Economy: US$5k
The Version 3 A380s have the highest density across the airline’s three current variants, with total capacity for 471 passengers.
|Version 1||Version 2||Version 3|
* Refitted Version 3 aircraft have a slightly different seating layout in Economy Class, though the same total capacity is achieved.
Which aircraft will stay?
This news confirms that 9V-SKM forms part of the future fleet of 12 A380s in Singapore Airlines, and it’s certain that the eight delivered or refitted with the new cabins will be staying.
Unfortunately we don’t know which the remaining three aircraft are, though it seems logical that the Version 2 to Version 3 retrofit is the simplest to administer, and Version 1 aircraft are likely too old to have enough useful life left to justify the refit cost (SIA tends to keep aircraft only to around 15 years of age).
It’s therefore likely that 9V-SKF to -SKK will be retired, all six in the Version 1 fleet, plus one Version 2 aircraft, which will not be refitted.
The biggest selling point of the newly configured A380s is the latest Suites cabin, relocated to the forward upper deck with a capacity of just six, three either side of a central aisle.
Two of the Suite pairs (1A/2A and 1F/2F) can combine to form a double suite if you are travelling with someone else.
You can read our review of the double suite on a flight from Singapore to Hong Kong in 2018 below.
Although Singapore Airlines stopped short of installing showers in the new A380 fit, there are two large washrooms at the front of the cabin, one of which is so big it has its own separate vanity area.
2017 Business Class
Another great advantage of the new Singapore Airlines A380 cabins is the excellent Business Class product, our favourite in the fleet, with 78 of these seats making up the rest of the upper deck in a 1-2-1 layout.
There’s the option at the middle seat pairs to retract the divider for couples travelling together, who also benefit from a ‘double bed’ at the three bulkhead positions at rows 11, 91 and 96.
Premium Economy Class
Premium Economy gets the biggest capacity boost in the new A380 layout, occupying the former Suites cabin at the front of the main deck where there are a total of 44 seats in a 2-4-2 layout (instead of 36 seats before).
Each seat is 19.5 inches wide, with eight-inch recline and seat pitch of 38 inches.
The seats were first introduced by the airline in 2013 on the Boeing 777-300ER and are by German manufacturer ZIM Flugsitz, with a slightly narrower 19-inch-wide version installed on the Airbus A350 long-haul variant.
Customers will be treated to an enhanced in-flight entertainment experience with the provision of active noise-cancelling headphones and a sleek 13.3-inch full HD monitor.
Other features include a full leather finishing, calf-rest and foot-bar for every seat, individual in-seat power supply, two USB ports, personal in-seat reading light, cocktail table, and more stowage space for personal items.Singapore Airlines
The product differs slightly from the latest 2018 Premium Economy seat chosen by the airline for its seven A350 ULR aircraft, which are ZS35 models by Zodiac Aerospace.
Economy Class on the new A380s has the latest Recaro CL3710 seats, complete with the airline’s own customisation.
One of the biggest benefits is the latest IFE system with an 11.1-inch touchscreen, plus individual USB charging and shared multi-standard power sockets.
Another benefit of the A380 aircraft refits is the Wi-Fi system, which is brought right up to date with the latest Inmarsat GX Aviation technology.
Singapore Airlines was the first airline in the world to install the GX Aviation Wi-Fi system on a passenger aircraft with the initial A380 Version 3 delivery, and on 17th December 2017 passengers on 9V-SKU’s inaugural flight to Sydney were treated to an unlimited connection to try it out.
Even with close to 100% of passengers using the system concurrently, fast speeds were reported.
A couple of weeks later we jumped on board the same aircraft on the same Singapore – Sydney flight to review the new Business Class product and picked up a great connection speed, with 8.6 Mbps download and 2.3 Mbps upload rates.
Later that year in July we took the new Suites to Hong Kong and recorded 6.7 Mbps download with 2 Mbps upload speeds.
Not only does that mean a fast connection speed, it also means Suites passengers will receive an unlimited data connection for their entire flight, rather than the 100MB cap that applied on older A380 aircraft.
In Business Class the data limit is upped from 30MB on the older aircraft to 100MB on these newer models, with that higher upper limit also provided to PPS Club members travelling in Economy Class and Premium Economy.
Finally in a recent enhancement, all KrisFlyer members travelling in Premium Economy and Economy Class on these newer aircraft benefit from a 30MB complimentary allowance.
Free Wi-Fi allowance (New A380)
|Class||Not KF/PPS||KrisFlyer||PPS Club*|
|Premium & Economy||None||30MB||100MB|
* includes supplementary PPS Club cardholders
Check out our full guide to the Wi-Fi systems installed and applicable access charges across the Singapore Airlines fleet.
The new and refitted A380s also boast the latest in flight entertainment systems, including the personalised myKrisWorld feature allowing you to bookmark and resume your viewing on different flights, and to customise and save personal preferences.
This system is also available on the Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s.
Is it farewell to the older products?
While it could easily take another couple of years to retrofit the remaining three aircraft after 9V-SKM, based on the glacial pace of refits completed to date, that could still tie in quite nicely with air travel returning.
IATA is forecasting demand returning to pre-COVID levels only by 2024, so it seems likely that the older A380 cabins will have already been refitted by then and probably won’t fly passenger services again.
If that’s the case then although they didn’t know it, the passengers on board SQ321 from London Heathrow to Singapore on 27th March 2020, which landed at 6.54pm the following day, were the last to experience both the older Suites and Business Class products on the A380.
That means it’s probably farewell to the airline’s first ever Suites product, which remained popular with travellers right up to the end. With twice as many Suites as the newly configured aircraft have, it was also an easier way to redeem KrisFlyer miles.
The news probably also means the older (super-wide) 2006 Business Class seat, already withdrawn from the Boeing 777s, will be a thing of the past.
The supply and demand metrics in play for international air travel (once COVID-19 is hopefully behind us) could be quite different from recent years, so it’s too early to say where Singapore Airlines will deploy its 12 Airbus A380s in future, once all dozen are back in the air.
We think we can be sure key demand markets like London and Sydney will be back on the roster in years to come, but whether these aircraft ever make it back to cities in the USA and China for example remains to be seen.
Great news for a consistent on-board offering when flying SIA’s flagship aircraft, with confirmation that all 12 Airbus A380s returning to the fleet as part of the post-COVID-19 recovery will have the new cabin products installed.
That means the latest seats in all four classes, the best in-flight entertainment system and the fastest Wi-Fi, though snagging a saver redemption in Suites will potentially be more difficult with only six installed on each aircraft, half the total found on non-refitted jets.
It looks as though this news spells curtains for the airline’s original Suites product and 2006 Business Class seats, with the three remaining older A380s unlikely to re-enter service until their retrofits are completed.
(Cover Photo: James Park Associates)