Singapore Airlines Eliminating Half Its First Class Seats from Long Haul 777s Getting Premium Economy has the lowdown on the Singapore Airlines Premium Economy retrofit.

  • Their A380s getting premium economy go from 12 first class, 60 business, and 399 coach (or 86 business, 311 coach) to 36 premium economy and 333 coach in the low-density business configuration or 36 premium economy and 245 coach in the high-density business configuration. Premium economy is coming at the expense of fewer coach seats.
  • Their 777-300ERs getting premium economy go from 8 first class, 42 business, and 228 coach to 4 first class, 48 business, 28 premium economy, and 184 coach. That’s 10% more business class, half the first class, and 20% fewer economy seats to make room for premium economy.

I’m not especially interested, then, in the A380 retrofit except to the extent that I know someone interested in buying premium economy.

What I am interested in is the routes operated by a 777-300ER that will get premium economy because there will be only half the first class seats on those aircraft that there are today.

Here’s the current plan for the routes that will see this change:

eff 12AUG15 Singapore – Sydney SQ231/222
eff 31AUG15 Singapore – Hong Kong SQ866/865 Gradual increase to daily by 10SEP15
eff 02SEP15 Singapore – London Heathrow SQ306/305
eff 24SEP15 Singapore – Frankfurt SQ326/325 2 weekly (Day 47; 4 weekly Day x136 from 25OCT15; 5 weekly Day x36 from 03NOV15; Daily from 30NOV15)
eff 20OCT15 Singapore – Munich – Manchester 2 weekly (Day 25; 4 weekly Day x147 from 27OCT15; Daily from 01DEC15)
eff 05JAN16 Singapore – Dubai SQ494/495 3 weekly (Day 256)
eff 06JAN16 Singapore – Seoul Incheon – San Francisco 2 weekly (Day 37)

The only one that concerns me personally is the San Francisco – Seoul flight.

There’s No Cutback in First Class on the A380

Singapore Airlines has truly an amazing first class product in their A380 Suites.

While the A380 is getting premium economy, they’re sticking with 12 first class suites. That’s outstanding. Although it’s gotten much harder to get first class award seats on the two US A380 routes, New York JFK – Frankfurt – Singapore and Los Angeles – Tokyo Narita – Singapore.

Fortunately you can still get first class awards much more easily Europe – Singapore and Singapore – Sydney.

Since I shoot for the A380 over the 777-300ER anyway, I take much solace in Singapore keeping 12 first class suites on the aircraft.

They’re Cutting First Class in Half on Some of the 777-300ER

Singapore’s 777-300ERs — the real workforce of their fleet — currently have two rows of four seats each, for a total of eight seats in the cabin.

It offers a fantastic seat for sleeping. The newest version of the cabin interior improves on the seat for lounging, but since the seat is unique — it actually flips over for the mattress rather than adjusting so that the seat gradually goes flat — it doesn’t have as many modes for lounging.

My take on Singapore first class on the 777 is great service, great meals, poor snacks, and uncomfortable seats though as I say the latest generation of the cabin does improve the seat.

Truth is that the business class hard product on the 777-300ER is nearly as good as first class.

The aircraft is configured with a 2-row mini-cabin behind first class, and then a galley separating it from the rest of business. Many people prefer the relative privacy of this mini-cabin.

Here’s a look at the business class suite. With a four-across configuration, like in first class, the seats are incredible wide and they are also relatively private.

There’s no business class amenity kit, but you can pre-order meals in business class. The prawn and chicken laksa served out of Singapore is amazing.

It Makes Sense for Singapore to Downsize First Class on This Plane for Some Routes

I don’t love this, but I get it. Here’s the logic:

  • With business class almost as good on the 777-300ER, it’s hard to sell so many seats.
  • One row, four seats, will be more exclusive and right-sized to many markets.
  • First class overall has a limited market, and with improvements in business that cabin is an easier sell.
  • So downsizing first class on specific routes makes sense.

Awards Will Be Much Harder to Get in First Class on the 777 on These Routes

Half the seats will make awards harder to get. And since they’re only trying to sell four, there’s going to be little reason to release saver award space in advance on routes where the aircraft is in this configuration.

That’s especially a shame for SQ15/16, the San Francisco – Seoul – Singapore flight. That flight has been a gimme for two first class award seats for a long time. You could get that flight most days.

Of course that’s also why Singapore is doing this, they aren’t selling the seats.

In contrast, the Houston – Moscow – Singapore flight has been harder to get award space and they’re also not making the configuration change at this time on that route. (I’d rather connect in Seoul than Moscow any day.)

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How does their premium economy differ from regular economy in the hard product, service, amenities…and what’s the jump in miles needed over regular economy? Maybe this is a good alternative to those that want something better than economy but don’t have or want to redeem business class miles.

  2. Since I’m based in Houston, very happy to not see Singapore-Moscow-Houston (SIN-DME-IAH) on this list! Given a very small premium in miles, it’s worth flying F over J. F is certainly easier to get IAH-DME than JFK-FRA but usually ends up fairly full.

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