Singapore Airlines launches its San Francisco – Singapore non-stop flight today with an Airbus A350 — the first A350 to operate out of San Francisco. Singapore has 67 A350s on order.
The aircraft features 253 seats in three classes: 42 in Business, 24 in Premium Economy and 187 in Economy Class. There’s no first class, but it does have one of my favorite business class products.
Singapore Airlines plans to re-introduce non-stop Los Angeles and New York – Singapore service with the introduction of the new Airbus A350ULR aircraft in 2018. But they’re able to offer this non-stop San Francisco service without the ‘ultra long range’ version of the aircraft because it’s actually a shorter flight than Singapore – Los Angeles, although I do expect it to be weight restricted during winter.
I attended the launch celebration for this new San Francisco – Singapore non-stop on Thursday.
At the dinner I was fortunate to re-connect with Chris McGinnis and Henry Harteveldt, and to be seated with Paul Edwards, head of architecture and industrial design for Airbus along with the evening’s emcee Kristen Sze of local ABC7 news.
Mr. Mak Swee Wah, Singapore Air’s Executive VP Commercial, described the airline’s brand promise of
network connectivity, product leadership, and service excellence. He talked about the swap of Moscow with Manchester for their Houston flight, “the British pound is quite low now so it’s a good time to…” which was a good laugh line.
Singapore will be competing head-to-head with United on this route, since United launched non-stop service on the route with a Boeing 787-9. Singapore will certainly offer the more desirable inflight product.
- The Airbus A350 is a wider plane, and yet whereas Singapore has 4-across seating in business class United squeezes in 6-across on the narrower Boeing 787. Business class features better food and service on Singapore, too. They offer ‘book the cook’ which allows you to pick from an extensive menu and they’ll have your selection onboard for you.
- Singapore offers a premium economy, better upgrade space to business class, and better business class award space than United.
- Singapore’s economy is nicer, with foot rests and cup holders.
Singapore offers the San Francisco market more same-carrier connectivity across Southeast Asia, whereas United has the connecting flights into San Francisco to feed their flight. (They’re both Star Alliance partners, of course, but their partnership has long seemed strained.)
On the other hand United has more corporate contracts in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ultimately 2 non-stops on the route is likely too much capacity, and will hurt yields. On the other hand it’s a good move for Singapore to make since:
- It’s hard to compete with United’s non-stop with the one-stop flights.
- They’re reducing capacity on net by replacing a Boeing 777 that flew San Francisco – Seoul – Singapore with this Airbus A350. (The Seoul flight, which was the weaker of their two flights, shifts to Los Angeles.)
- The Singapore non-stop also puts them back on equal footing with Cathay Pacific for connections to Southeast Asia, offering one-stop service from the Bay Area. And wouldn’t you rather connect at Singapore’s Changi airport, anyway?
I love the Singapore Airlines business class seat — the current generation is 3 years old and solves a problem earlier versions faced. The seat is either upright or in bed mode. You don’t “recline into a bed” rather the seat flips over and becomes a bed. That makes for a great bed, but you don’t have a lounging recline mode. But this iteration has such soft leather it’s a very comfortable seat to relax in.
You do want the bulkhead though if you can get it for even more spaciousness, though as it stands it may be the widest business class seat in the sky. One trick to get into the cabin: Upgrade availability from premium economy to business class is a phenomenal value and availability is generally very good.
If you are stuck on the competing United non-stop in economy you’ll still probably want to credit your miles to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer unless you’re needing the miles for elite status with United.