Singapore Airlines’ low-cost subsidiary Scoot has taken delivery of its first trio among an eventual fleet of 16 Airbus A321neo aircraft joining the airline over the coming years, and is already planning to put the new jets to work between Singapore and Bangkok later this month.
With 27% more seating capacity than the Airbus A320neo, the type also brings the benefit of slightly longer range within a 6-7 hour window, potentially opening up more leisure destinations for the budget carrier post-COVID.
Singapore’s first Airbus A321s
Despite the original Airbus A321 having been in service globally since 1994 and this new A321neo version flying since 2017, no Singapore operator has ever operated an A321 – until now.
Both SilkAir and Scoot have operated the smaller Airbus A319, and of course the Airbus A320 has been popular with both those carriers and Jetstar Asia, but surprisingly the A321 didn’t previously make any mark with local carriers.
The aircraft is a stretched version of the Airbus A320 and is popular for offering more competitive seat costs on busier routes. It competes primarily with the upcoming Boeing 737 MAX 10.
“With the A321neo, Scoot will be able to operate its single aisle flights with unmatched levels of efficiency, benefitting from the highest commonality of the Airbus product range. This includes shared resources in spares, tools, similar maintenance engineering, pilots and cabin crew.”Scoot, 29th July 2019
Scoot’s A321neos are A321-271NX models. Here’s what that means in ‘Aviation English’:
The first three aircraft were delivered from Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport, where Airbus builds its A321s, landing into Changi as follows:
Saturday 29th May 2021
- TR322 (9V-NCB) “Just Wing It”, landed 08:06
- TR321 (9V-NCA) “Wings of Change”, landed 09:11
Friday 4th June 2021
- TR323 (9V-NCD) “Happy Pill”, landed 17:08
Though the A321neo boasts up to 4,000 nautical miles of range, probably more with no passengers on board, non-stop delivery flights from Hamburg were not possible. All three aircraft therefore made a brief refuelling stop for just over an hour in Dubai on their way to Changi.
Future upcoming deliveries will include:
The Scoot A321neos
Although the Airbus A321neo has a much longer cabin than the Airbus A320, Scoot has opted not to include a ScootPlus (formerly known as ScootBiz) section, like it has on its Boeing 787s.
Instead a 236-seat Economy Class layout has been chosen, 50 additional seats compared to the airline’s Airbus A320neo jets.
As with the airline’s A320neos, new Recaro seats are installed. These save weight and have slightly more knee space, with the literature pocket moved up to head height.
There’s a good overview of these seats on Scoot’s A320neo here.
Scoot has not yet published a seat map for its A321neo aircraft on its website fleet page, however this is an example of a 236-seat layout, which should be almost identical.
As you can see there is likely to be one forward toilet plus three at the rear, four extra legroom rows (total of 24 seats) and probably one ‘couple pair’.
There’s no seat-back IFE, but in late 2020 Scoot launched ScootHub, its new system allowing at-seat ordering of food, drinks and duty free items through your own personal mobile device.
This will also be available on the A321neos.
The system also supports games, an in-flight map and some other features, but most importantly has allowed the airline to gain approval to serve F&B items again with reduced crew interaction – in view of COVID-19.
Bangkok is the first route
Scoot will launch its first Airbus A321neo on flights to and from Bangkok four times per week from 28th June 2021.
Similarly in October 2018, Scoot inaugurated its first Airbus A320neo services on the Singapore – Bangkok run.
Here’s how the airline’s Bangkok schedule looks from 28th June through to 30th October 2021, with A321neo flights highlighted.
Singapore ⇄ Bangkok
28 June – 30 October
787-8 or 787-9
787-8 or 787-9
It’s worth noting that Scoot’s confirmed schedule has only been published up to 30th June 2021 at this stage.
A321neos are labelled “32Q” under IATA timetables and in GDS systems. The Scoot website has a strange label for them at the moment, which will probably be fixed later to something more user-friendly.
While their increased capacity is clearly not yet required (Scoot had a 9.3% passenger load factor in May 2021), we think the airline will probably want to familiarise its ground staff, pilots and cabin crew to the new aircraft in readiness for what we all hope to be some travel rebound in the second half of the year.
We would therefore expect to see the airline use the A321neo on other flights in due course, though it’s possible that some will also be stored for the time being.
Like its A320neos, these new Scoot A321neos have the new Airbus ‘Space-Flex’ cabin, which allows greater seating capacity primarily by relocating two of the toilets into the rear galley.
This is ideal for low-cost carriers using a ‘buy-on-board’ principle, with less oven and galley space required for hot meal services and food preparation.
There are also some changes to the door configuration to allow more passenger seats, primarily by replacing a pair of floor-level exits in front of the wing with over-wing exits instead.
Scoot didn’t really want these planes (yet)!
Scoot first announced its order for 16 Airbus A321neos in July 2019, with six aircraft converted from existing A320neo orders and the remaining 10 aircraft sourced from two different leasing companies:
4 from Singapore’s BOC Aviation
6 from Ireland’s SMBC Aviation Capital
This move helped Scoot secure earlier delivery slots for the A321neos, to drive its growth ambitions, though it’s no doubt fair to say they probably now wish they hadn’t signed up for these aircraft, given the COVID-19 situation.
Earlier this year the SIA Group reached a deal to defer its deliveries from Airbus, however this did not cover the 10 leased A321neo aircraft and Scoot therefore had to negotiate directly with the lessors, to no avail, as Scoots’s CEO confirmed on a recent analyst call.
“We have engaged with the lessors. There are two lessors involved, one of them is BOC [Aviation] and the other one is SMBC. We have sought to defer the delivery of the aircraft and have been unsuccessful in the negotiations.”
Unfortunately, therefore, Scoot is tied in to these deliveries during this financial year and will be exposed to the hefty monthly lease costs for all 10 aircraft by March 2022.
Popularity of the A321neo
Like the A320neo, the A321neo benefits from brand new engines compared to its predecessor. In Scoot’s case it’s the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G, which uses geared turbofan technology with aluminium fan blades to achieve 15-20% less fuel consumption and significantly less noise for passengers and those on the ground.
Airbus has clocked nearly 3,500 orders for its A321neo and has already delivered over 500 of them to customers worldwide.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Scoot joins low-cost carriers like AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, IndiGo and VietJet in operating the type, but it’s also popular with full-service airlines too.
SIA’s partner Vistara in India has committed to six of the jets, with two already in is fleet.
Cathay Pacific has four A321neos in its fleet, with 12 more on order, seating 202 passengers including 12 in its Business Class cabin with new Collins Aerospace AirRest recliner seats.
At least one airline decks the jet out in a 76-seat all-Business Class layout!
Cost saving in the form of reduced fuel consumption is the most attractive aspect for airlines introducing these new aircraft types, like the Airbus A320neo family and Boeing 737 MAX jets.
It’s also a big plus point though, with people increasingly concerned about their individual carbon footprint when they travel.
Compared to an older A321, the A321neo achieves:
- 15-20% less fuel burn and carbon (CO2) emissions
- 50% less Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions
- 50% less noise footprint
“With the A321neo’s enhanced sharklets, fuel-efficient engines and latest cabin innovations in the widest single-aisle cabin in the sky, there is an expected fuel cost savings of 12% as compared to the A320neos and 20% as compared to the A320ceos. On the environmental front, there is an expected 50% reduction in noise footprint and nitrogen oxide emissions as well as a reduction of 5,000 tonnes less carbon dioxide per year per aircraft.”Scoot, 29th July 2019
In a recent Booking.com study, over two-thirds of Singapore-based travellers said the COVID-19 pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future.
Airlines like Scoot should therefore be able to market flights on newer more efficient aircraft like the A321neo with lower environmental impact as a strong selling point.
Based on the latest CAAS aircraft register, recent deliveries and SIA’s latest financial update in May 2021, here’s how the Scoot fleet should evolve between now and March 2022.
Registered Aircraft Fleet
A320s leaving the fleet comprise four aircraft whose values were written-down by the SIA Group in November 2020, believed to be 9V-TAN, -TAQ, -TAU and -TAV, plus one aircraft being returned to its lessor between now and March 2022.
As we recently reported, Singapore Airlines has also transferred two more of its Boeing 787-10 orders across to the low-cost division, converting them to 787-9s, though these are not for delivery this year.
Singapore Airlines, meanwhile, will retain its allegiance to Boeing for next-generation narrow-body jets, when it introduces up to 14 Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft into its fleet between now and March 2022, with a further 23 of the type on order.
These will be fitted with the airline’s new narrow-body Regional Business Class seats by Thompson Aero, which convert into flat beds, plus the latest long-haul Economy Class seats. Seat-back in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi connectivity will also be available.
Scoot’s early introduction of the Airbus A321neo aircraft isn’t exactly what it wants to be doing right now, given the almost non-existent demand due to COVID-19, however sourcing its initial batch from leasing companies has left the airline with little choice but to take delivery.
Rather than put the aircraft into storage, Singapore – Bangkok flights are on the agenda for at least some of these new jets, and we expect there will be further routes on the cards, perhaps even before borders start to open.
Once demand does return, the efficiency of these aircraft is among the best available in cost per seat kilometre, so Scoot should be able to start taking advantage on busier routes.
(Cover Photo: Plane’s Portrait Aviation Media / Malcolm Lu)