Singapore Airlines begins to expand its A380 operations with London joining network

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Singapore Airlines has started to piece together a global network for its Airbus A380 fleet, with the launch of services to London next month.

The airline has received two A380s, and is due to take its third next month, which will clear the way for flights between Singapore and London Heathrow to begin on 18 March. Until now, SIA has operated the 471-seater only on daily flights between Singapore and Sydney.

The A380 will replace a 747-400 on SIA's flight SQ322 from Singapore to London, departing late in the evening and arriving at Heathrow early in the morning. Return flights will depart London before noon and arrive the next morning in Singapore.

London has always been in the airline's plan as the next A380 destination, and it plans to eventually upgrade all three of its London flights to the ultra-large aircraft, but this will take at least a year. Other destinations likely to join the A380 network include Tokyo, Hong Kong and San Francisco.

The Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered A380 has had an excellent service entry with SIA since revenue flights began on 25 October last year, with just one technical delay so far. "Frankly, I've never seen such a good introduction," says the airline's senior vice-president engineering, Mervyn Sirisena.

The delivery of the second A380 in January enabled SIA to withdraw its first aircraft to undergo modifications to the crew rest for the longer-distance London flights. Airbus used this grounding "to incorporate about 30 modifications to improve the reliability systems", says Philippe Mhun, vice-president A380 customer services. "They are either parts of already-identified maturity items, or fixes to address technical issues experienced during the entry into service."

By mid-January, the first aircraft (MSN003/9V-SKA) had accumulated 1,100 flying hours in 150 flights. By the end of February, SIA's MSN003 will have accumulated more than 1,500h, pushing it ahead of the highest time flight-test aircraft.

"The SIA aircraft will become the leader in terms of ageing, so perhaps we will encounter some new issues that we've not seen before, but we are prepared for this," says Mhun.