With its Airbus A380s mothballed for over a year and its Boeing 777-300ER fleet resigned to cargo-only flights for much of the last 12 months, one option missing from Singapore Airlines passenger services lately has been its flagship Suites and First Class cabins.
Recently, however, Boeing 777-300ERs have been reappearing on passenger flights to and from a handful of cities, though the small four-seat First Class cabin on those aircraft has remained unavailable… until now.
First Class is back
Yesterday morning Singapore Airlines started to load First Class revenue and award space on three of its Boeing 777-300ER services for the month of June 2021:
- Jakarta (SQ950/953)
- Sydney (SQ231/222)
- Hong Kong (SQ882/883)
For Sydney and Hong Kong, these are aircraft type swaps from the Airbus A350 (Regional and Long Haul variants respectively), while for Jakarta the Boeing 777-300ER was already programmed on two daily flights, one of which is now selling First Class.
First Class seats on these three routes are now available for award or cash booking.
First Class has not been available on any Singapore Airlines flight since 8th June 2020, when SQ232 landed into Changi from Sydney at 5.17pm, marking the (temporary) withdrawal of Boeing 777-300ERs from passenger services.
Advantage awards are loaded
For those wanting to burn through (a lot) of their KrisFlyer miles, Singapore Airlines is loading two Advantage awards on each of these flights, though we couldn’t find any Saver space – even for waitlist.
For larger groups it’s possible to waitlist for three or four seats at Advantage rates (i.e. potentially book out the entire cabin).
Sadly, Advantage awards don’t come cheap!
These are the one-way KrisFlyer miles redemption rates to or from Singapore for these flights in First Class.
|KrisFlyer Redemption Rates
As you can see, the lack of Saver awards a this stage means it’s a very pricey option to redeem a First Class seat, for now at least, with Advantage awards coming in 80-90% more expensive than the more ideal Saver option on these three city pairs.
That’s especially true when you consider there is no First Class lounge option at any of these cities; even at Changi The Private Room and the SilverKris First Class lounges remain shuttered while undergoing renovation.
Presumably Singapore Airlines is banking on the fact that enough members will have racked up such a significant volume of miles over the last year, some will be prepared to part with this kind of volume to sit in First Class again!Fun fact: Before COVID-19, Singapore Airlines was flying 310 First Class and Suites seats out of its Changi hub every day. From June 2021, that total will be 12.
There are five Singapore Airlines routes using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on passenger flights in June 2021 which have not received the First Class treatment, with the cabin still being blocked for booking:
- Bangkok (SQ712/711)
- Ho Chi Minh (SQ178/177)
- Kuala Lumpur (SQ106/105/126/125)
- London (SQ306/305)
- Yangon (SQ762/761)
Also, the second daily Boeing 777-300ER serving the Singapore – Jakarta route (SQ964/965) is not offering First Class, unlike the morning flight.
For Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Kuala Lumpur and Yangon it’s not surprising to see no First Class option, since these routes don’t usually offer the cabin, even before COVID-19.
For London, SQ306/305 is only operating three times weekly in June 2021, supplementing 14 times weekly Airbus A350 service.
Singapore Airlines doesn’t tend to like offering its premium products unless it can do so consistently on a daily basis (they are a little obsessed about this!), so unless the Boeing 777-300ER picks up to daily operation on the route, we don’t expect a First Class option to be available.
Update 22 April: Singapore Airlines has now shifted Boeing 777-300ER operation onto the daily SQ322/317 London flights from 1st June 2021, and also added First Class availability on that route. See our article here for details.
From July, it all disappears
This First Class availability is only loaded for the month of June 2021, with the cabin then locked out again on all routes in the current published schedule until it reappears on 1st April 2022, including Suites on the Airbus A380.
We wouldn’t read too much into this right now.
For one thing, it’s illogical to reintroduce First Class only for one month, but moreover the reason is likely to be that Singapore Airlines is only progressively loading its final schedule on a month-by-month basis due to COVID-19.
Currently, the schedule is confirmed until 30th June 2021, so we expect once the July update is published (in May), First Class availability will continue to be loaded on these Boeing 777-300ER routes.
SIA’s 2013 First Class seat may not live up to ‘Suite Standards’, but it remains one of our favourite products and we’ve always really enjoyed our trips in this cabin.
The intimate single-row section has only four seats in a 1-2-1 layout, including a large void behind the middle pair for the cabin crew to pass between the two aisles while remaining out of sight.
In mid-2018 we concluded our round-the-world trip in First Class on SQ1 from San Francisco to Singapore via Hong Kong in this excellent cabin, and had the chance to thoroughly review it including both a long-haul and short-haul experience across the two stages of the journey.
If you haven’t tried the product, while we can’t recommend parting with Advantage award rates, we don’t think you’d be disappointed.
Aside from Suites on the A380, this First Class product is now the only one fitted to Singapore Airlines aircraft, following the retirement of older 2006 First Class seats on the Boeing 777-300 (non-ERs).
Will the Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble have First Class?
It certainly looks like it, since the daily SIA service between the two cities is upgauged to the Boeing 777-300ER from 1st June 2021, but we won’t know for sure until the ATB designated flight schedule is announced.
The latest rumoured start date for the arrangement is for mid-May, and last time there were only 11 days notice from announcement to launch, so it’s still a possibility such a timescale could prove realistic.
Whether First Class would then be available from day one is another matter (the route still uses an A350 until the end of May), but it would be an interesting segment for SIA to try and tap into, for increased revenue or to encourage customers to deplete a chunk of their miles for a more exclusive experience.
As we highlighted earlier, redemptions in the First Class cabin are currently restricted to Advantage rates, meaning 73,000 miles per person one-way to Hong Kong or 146,000 miles for a round-trip.
Thankfully, Business Class Saver awards remain widely available!
In cash terms, Singapore Airlines is charging around S$3,000 for a one-way SIN-HKG flight in First Class, or around S$4,700 for a round-trip.
When the ATB was first set to launch in November 2020, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific were both using Airbus A350-900 aircraft on the route, with their long-haul cabin products in both cases, so SIA could also potentially gain an advantage over Cathay here with a First Class offering.
SIA using the Boeing 777-300ER on ATB flights would certainly be a boon for travellers, giving them a slightly more roomy version of the 2013 Business Class seat, plus the First Class option, even if it is at extortionate cash or miles rates!
Before you get too excited though, full vaccination is expected to be a requirement to travel on the ATB, potentially pushing back the option to later in the year for most Singapore residents.
Are all the 777-300ERs back?
Sadly not, but increasingly the 27-strong fleet is being taken out of storage and deployed on revenue flights. At the time of writing, 10 Boeing 777-300ERs are ‘active’, having completed at least one flight over the last seven days, meaning close to 40% of the fleet is now in operating condition.
17 aircraft remain in storage, 16 of them in Changi and one at Alice Springs.
In October 2020, only four Boeing 777-300ERs in the SIA fleet were active, so there’s certainly a conscious effort to increase their use, now that the airline has begun to stretch the utilisation of its more efficient Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 fleets towards the limit.
That could potentially mean more First Class options opening up over the coming months, depending on where SIA deploy the aircraft.
An unexpectedly early return for the First Class cabin on selected Singapore Airlines flights, with three routes now picking up the excellent 2013 product on a daily basis from 1st June 2021.
The airline has not loaded its confirmed schedule from 1st July 2021 onwards at this stage, so First Class space then disappears again until 1st April 2022, however we expect this will be progressively updated as SIA finalises its timetables on a month-by-month basis due to the pandemic.
Finally, a shift to the Boeing 777-300ER with First Class on the Hong Kong route bodes well for the upcoming Air Travel Bubble flights to potentially offer this cabin option, albeit at a hefty price (either in cash or miles) based on current availability!
With the ATB set to be the first realistic leisure travel option for many of us in over a year, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this and sharing further details once they are announced.
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)