There were a couple of interesting ‘shuffles’ for SIA’s Airbus A380 fleet in the last 24 hours, with another aircraft moved from Changi into storage at Alice Springs in Australia overnight, followed this morning by a separate superjumbo flown from Alice Springs down to Sydney.
The two flights, presumably operated by the same crew, operated as follows on 22nd February 2021:
- SQ8896 (9V-SKL) Singapore – Alice Springs
Departed 01:01, Arrived 07:46
- SQ8896 (9V-SKQ) Alice Springs – Sydney
Departed 10:03, Arrived 15:07
9V-SKL had been stored at Changi since its last passenger service on 27th March 2020, while 9V-SKQ had been in desert storage for a total of almost eight months, having been relocated to the Alice Springs facility on 27th June 2020.
Unusually, 9V-SKQ flew for three-and-a-half hours between Alice Springs and Sydney at just 22,000ft, suggesting some technical issue or requirement with the aircraft, since around 40,000ft would have been a more typical cruise altitude for an empty A380.
What was the reason?
Two of the carrier’s A380s have now ‘swapped places’ at the Alice Springs storage facility, but we were certainly curious why 9V-SKQ flew to Sydney rather than back to Singapore.
We checked with Singapore Airlines on the reason, with the airline providing the following response.
“Singapore Airlines can confirm that one of our Airbus A380 aircraft that was stored in Alice Springs has begun its planned return to Singapore ahead of a scheduled retro-fitting and maintenance programme.
“The aircraft, registration 9V-SKQ, has been moved to Sydney to undergo routine checks following its storage, before returning to Singapore where it will be retro-fitted as part of our plan to have all 12 remaining A380s in our fleet fitted with the latest A380 cabin product.”SIA Spokesperson
Singapore Airlines already confirmed it would retain only 12 of its Airbus A380s back in November 2020, whilst also revealing its worst ever half-year loss due to the COVID-19 impact.
This will represent a 37% reduction in the A380 fleet for the airline, with seven older aircraft being retired following a fleet and network review.
Where is the rest of the A380 fleet?
These latest aircraft relocations mean only 11 of the airline’s 19 Airbus A380s remain in Singapore, with seven in Alice Springs and one (temporarily) in Sydney.
Here’s how the fleet is distributed, including data on aircraft age and cabin version.
Singapore Airlines A380 Fleet
(22 Feb 2021)
ASP – Alice Springs Airport
SIN – Singapore Changi Airport
SYD – Sydney Airport
Now that we know 9V-SKQ is in line for the cabin refit, it looks as though 9V-SKL, which is the carrier’s oldest Version 2 A380 and flew down to Alice Springs last night, may be the sole aircraft in that sub-fleet not receiving the new cabins and therefore leaving the airline.
If so, it would join the six Version 1 models on the departure board, meaning only 9V-SKP and 9V-SKR will need to be refitted after SKQ.
That would mean the airline retaining its newest 12 aircraft, all of which will be in the new cabin configuration with the latest seats by the time they return to service, as we first revealed in November last year.
The Version 3 A380s have the highest density across the airline’s three current variants, with total capacity for 471 passengers.
Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 Capacities
|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.
When will the aircraft be back in service?
Despite the faster pace of SIA’s A380 refits lately (we understand all are due to be finished by the end of 2021), actually seeing the aircraft back in service with Singapore Airlines is not likely to be on the cards for some time yet.
The high capacity jet, with 471 seats in SIA’s configuration, will likely be the last to return to the passenger network – simply by virtue of its enormous size.
The A380 only makes sense to operate on high demand routes, and the COVID-19 recovery predictions look set to mean there are years rather than months to wait before it’s feasible for the carrier to operate such large aircraft again.
More progress on the A380 retrofits is great news. It means the latest seats to look forward to 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 SIA’s non-refitted jets.
We really enjoyed our experience back on board this popular aircraft during the A380 Restaurant@Changi event last year, but actually getting on board for a flight from A to B still seems like a distant prospect.
Unfortunately it’s unlikely we will see the Airbus A380s back in commercial service with Singapore Airlines for months if not years to come, as travel demand is forecast to take a long time to return to 2019 levels.
(Cover Photo: Mike Fuchslocher / Shutterstock)